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Four Republican Medicare Secrets ... and a $600 Billion Funeral

By       Message Richard Eskow     Permalink
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Does overtreatment research interfere with our right to choose our own care? I want to make an informed choice -- and I don't want anybody cutting me open if it isn't absolutely necessary.

3. Seniors are already being hit hard by medical costs.

People who aren't covered by Medicare and don't know much about it often assume it covers all, or most, medical expenses. But the average person on Medicare pays roughly $4,600 per year in out-of-pocket medical costs, and that figure can be much higher for those who are severely or chronically ill or who have suffered a serious injury.

Boehner's figure of $600 billion over 10 years is a reduction of approximately 7.8 percent from current projections. But Medicare enrollment will increase from 49 million people to 85 million over the same period. Assuming that these Republican cuts are made permanent, that means that Medicare's per-person budget will have been cut by more than 15 percent by the year 2022.

4. Chronic conditions and end of life illnesses are extraordinarily expensive.

They're not proposing to do anything about Medicare's biggest cost problem: the care that's provided to the severely ill, especially in the final year of life. As the Dartmouth Atlas reports, "Patients with chronic illness in their last two years of life account for about 32% of total Medicare spending." That comes to nearly 2.5 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, based on current projects. And yet the GOP is proposing to slash, not increase, funding for research that might help us provide end-of-life care more effectively and humanely.

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The elderly are particularly prone to other costly chronic conditions like cancer and diabetes, which can be treated much more effectively -- and much less expensively -- if they are caught early. Instead, their plan to deny Medicare for 65 and 66 years will lead to less early diagnosis and intervention, making us sicker and driving up Medicare's costs.

It's Your Funeral

That leads us to our "modest proposal." Any way you look at it, we're going to be seeing an increase in the number of funerals if Medicare benefits are cut. Research has shown that the survival for seniors in this country increased by 13 percent when Medicare was introduced in the 1960s.

It's reasonable to assume that those survival rates will begin to fall again -- and death rates will rise -- if we impose mindless benefit cuts, instead of taking an intelligent cost management approach that focuses on expense drivers such as overtreatment, overbilling, and excessive profiteering.

The Republicans want drastic cost reductions without disturbing corporate profits. Using their logic, they shouldn't take away our first two years of Medicare coverage. They should take away the last two years. That would cut Medicare expenditures by more than a third.

And what do they care about one more funeral here or there -- as long as it's not theirs?

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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