By Steven Tavares
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Republican rushed to paint a report from two Medicare trustees estimating the program to be insolvent by 2024 as proof the health care reform bill passed by Democrats has not sufficiently stemmed the cost of the subsidized care.

Medicare expert Dr.
Robert Reischauer says
the program is sensitive
to the overall economy

During a hearing today of the House Ways and Means Committee of Health, Rep. Pete Stark said without the health care reform bill, Medicare would be in the red in just five years from now, instead of the longer projection.

Stark faulted putting too much credence in Medicare’s long-term prognostications. Estimates in the early 1970s called for insolvency in two years, according to Stark, and nearly 25 years in the future in 2000.

“In fact, during the past 45 years, whether solvency projections have been two years or 25, we have never allowed Medicare to become insolvent,” said Stark. “Why? Because Congress has always acted to make changes to the program to avoid that outcome. That’s our job and I think we’ve done it pretty well.”

Medicare’s trustees had previously projected insolvency by 2029–a juicy counterpoint easily grabbed by many Republicans who favor converting its funds to subsidies for private insurance companies. Stark attributed the drop to the sluggish economy. “You’re right on the money,” testified Medicare Trustee Dr. Robert Reischauer. “[Medicare] is a program that is sensitive to the strength of the economy.”

Stark also took an opportunity to criticize the GOP’s previous stances on Medicare led by the controversial plan put forth by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

“I’m not sure why our Majority is focused on the issue of Medicare solvency at all,” said Stark. “They’ve already voted to end Medicare. Their position is clear.

“Republicans don’t believe it is the role of the federal government to guarantee health benefits to senior citizens and people with disabilities. They prefer to repeal the health reform law and end the delivery system reforms — reforms that this Trustee’s Report highlights as showing real promise for controlling Medicare spending growth even more in the future.

“Republicans instead want to provide Medicare beneficiaries with a voucher to purchase more expensive private insurance that may or may not be affordable, or cover the benefits they need. There’s no doubt that an underfunded voucher would save the government money. Medicare becomes a lot cheaper when you decimate the program.”

Undaunted by the details of the report, Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican committee member from Washington state, predicted Medicare’s eventual demise while denigrating viewers of C-Span. “I think there are some major themes you are expressing this morning to all of us, to all Americans and some who may be watching on C-Span and don’t have a life,” he said. “Medicare is going bankrupt.”