Medicare Reform: Issues and Answers

In 1965, landmark legislation established the national Medicare system as a means of insuring access to medical care for all elderly citizens. Today, rocketing medical costs combined with a rapidly ageing population have thrown the Medicare system off balance, moving it perilously close to financial crisis. Medicare already accounts for 2.65 per cent of gross domestic product, and by the year 2030 that share is expected to more than double. Further, the trust fund dedicated to Medicare hospitalization coverage is expected to be depleted by 2008. Clearly, Medicare cannot endure much longer without either imposing a massive tax burden or dissolving altogether under its own financial strain. This text - one of a series sponsored by the George Bush School of Government and Public Policy at Texas A&M University - tackles the Medicare predicament, delving into the fundamental issues surrounding the reorganization of the system: whether to allocate Medicare's growing financial load to workers in the form of higher taxes, shift the onus to future generations, or shortchange both the expectations and care of present recipients by substantially cutting benefits. This volume assembles a group of analysts of health issues to consider the economic forces impacting the surging health care market. Written for the general reader and offering ideas for policy revision along with data on health care economics, this volume provides a deliberation on the precarious future of Medicare.