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Medicare: More Waste, Less Care

Opinion Editorial
February 7, 2009

By Brian Schwartz

If “Medicare for all” gives you that intoxicating “government as nurturing parent” feeling, think again. The Camera reported that “thousands of patients” … “will have to find new doctors” because Boulder Community Internal Medicine is closing — in part because of the “low reimbursement rates of its Medicare patients.”

Expect more of this. The 2008 Medicare Trustees report says Medicare’s financial outlook “continues to raise serious concerns.” It will be underfunded without “very substantial increases in tax revenues and/or reductions in expenditures.”

“Reduction in expenditures.” This means government will tell you when you can or cannot receive medical care. “Medicare for all” will make these problems worse. As a tax-funded insurer, Medicare would drive out competition from non-government insurers and become a monopolistic insurance provider with little incentive to satisfy patients needs.

Medicare for all means more waste. A Washington Post headline reads “Medical Fraud a Growing Problem: Medicare Pays Most Claims Without Review.” Dartmouth researchers concluded that “nearly 20 percent of total Medicare expenditures” provides “no benefit in terms of survival” and that it’s unlikely that the “extra spending improves the quality of life.”

Government shouldn’t be in the insurance business. Before Medicare retirees were buying insurance in increasing numbers. They would again if politicians phased out Medicare and lifted controls that make medical care and insurance so expensive.

But if you must have government involvement, why not replace Medicare with a voucher for private insurance? Government doesn’t run its own grocery stores — it issues food stamps.

This article first appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera, February 7th, 2009.