The Hypocritical and Reckless Attacks on the Ryan Medicare Plan

James C. Capretta

First published 5/2/11 on Kaiser Health News

It should be obvious by now that the president of the United States and his political allies are hoping to ride demonization of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform proposal all the way to electoral victory in November 2012.

Following the president’s April 13 campaign-style budget speech, in which he aimed his most intense partisan fire at the Ryan Medicare plan, the entire Democratic political machine has taken the cue and gotten cranked up. In recent days, the party’s campaign committees began running attack ads against the Ryan plan — a full year and a half before the next election. Professional agitators have been rounded up to heckle members of Congress in their districts. And a legion of administration apologists has filled the blogosphere and newspaper opinion pages with outrage — outrage! — at the “cruelty” of the Ryan plan.

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CABG in Decline

Merrill Goozner

First published 5/3/11 on Gooz News

The number of Americans with serious heart disease in need of hospital treatment is on the decline. A new study in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association shows the overall rate of coronary revascularizations — ranging from the coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgeries to in-and-out catheter-based procedures like angioplasties and stent insertions — fell from just under 1,500 per million adults a quarter in 2001 to less than 1,250 per million adults a quarter in 2008, a 15 percent decline.

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A Family Physician’s Manifesto

Paul M. Fischer

As a third-year medical student in 1977, I joined the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).  In those culturally tumultuous years, it was a way to declare my belief that America needed physicians who cared for the whole person, family and community. It was also a declaration that, in choosing the primary care path in a field ripe with tempting medical specialties, money was not my primary goal.

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Insurance Reform Is Not Cost Control

AUSTIN FRAKT

First published 2/09/11 on Kaiser Health News

Now that House Republicans, along with a few Democrats, have passed a bill to repeal last year’s health reform law, they are planning to offer some alternatives for replacing it. Not unexpectedly, health care spending — high and growing premiums and government expenditures — are dominant concerns among policymakers. But how can we tell if their plans are likely to tackle this problem?

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Is Richard Foster Right About Health Care Costs

JONATHAN COHN

Originally published 2/2/11 on Kaiser Health News

Last week, before a lower federal judge in Florida declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, another relatively obscure government figure generated news about health care reform. It was Richard Foster, the chief actuary at the federal agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid.

During a Capitol Hill hearing, Foster was asked to judge claims that the health law would “hold down costs.” Foster said he thought the claim was “false … more than true.” Critics of the overhaul seized on his comments as proof that they have been right — and proponents have been wrong — about the law’s fiscal impact.

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Are You Paying Your Fair Share For Medicare?

Eugene Steuerle

Originally published 12/7/10 on The Government We Deserve

What do you pay in Medicare taxes? And what Medicare benefits can you expect? This issue—potent now that the first baby boomers are turning 65—was highlighted recently by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in a widely read Associated Press story.

It’s no secret that early generations of Social Security beneficiaries got more out of the system than they paid into it. Beneficiaries in the 1940s and 1950s paid very low Social Security taxes for only a few years, then retired and received benefits for the rest of their lives. Until recently, in fact, almost all generations of retirees fared rather well. After all, the combined employer and employee tax rate for Old Age, Survivors, and Disability insurance, or OASDI, was kept low relative to benefits that would later be received. That combined rate equaled only 3.0 percent of earnings in 1950 and 6.0 percent in 1960, and it didn’t rise to its still-inadequate level of 12.4 percent until the late 1980s. Since most of these revenues weren’t saved, the increased OASDI tax rate supported ever-rising transfers to beneficiaries.

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