Imagine! When children have higher co-pays, they tend to not get adequate treatment for their asthma.
Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review has been doing great work on untangling the intentions of the Very Serious People toward our social safety net. This time, she deciphers Obama's State of the Union message for his intentions toward Medicare cuts -- the so-called "modest reforms" he mentioned:
The president’s State of the Union message may have sort of resolved the question: “Will he or won’t he touch Medicare? The answer: he probably will, a conclusion based on his cryptically grand rhetoric. The president called for those who care deeply about Medicare to “embrace the need for modest reforms—otherwise our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children.” Vague enough!
Next came some “specifics.” Obama said he was prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of healthcare savings by the beginning of the next decade as those proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission. The Simpson and Bowles reference probably flew over many heads. Three years ago, the president appointed the commission to recommend steps for reducing the deficit. It was chaired by the former Wyoming senator, Alan Simpson, and the former Clinton chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, and composed of Democrats and Republicans. They could not agree on final recommendations, but issued a report anyway. It’s time to dust it off.
The Simpson-Bowles plan called for a global budget for all federal government healthcare spending, and for limiting healthcare outlays to the rate of GDP growth plus one percent. And it laid out several changes to Medicare, with price tags for each adding up to billions.
What’s significant is that the proposals shift some of the cost of care from the federal government to seniors, along the lines of the bill introduced by Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, which we parsed last week. Like Corker’s bill, Simpson-Bowles would require seniors to pay one $550 deductible instead of separate deductibles for various Medicare services. And like Corker, seniors would have to pay $7,500 of their expenses out-of-pocket.
As we wrote last week, that would be tough for millions of beneficiaries, considering that half of them have incomes of $24,000 or less.
Such a requirement for seniors would be a death sentence for many.