By James J. Devine
Medicare benefit cuts should be off the table in discussions among President Obama and Congressional leaders negotiating a deal to prevent a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts on March 1.
We don’t need to cut benefits to save money in Medicare, because savings through delivery system reforms are enough to preserve and strengthen the program without hurting middle class seniors.
Economists across the political spectrum agree that significant savings can be achieved in our health care system without affecting the quality of care.
President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors estimated that over $700 billion a year can be saved without compromising health outcomes; the Institute of Medicine has recently put this number at $750 billion; the New England Healthcare Institute reported that it is $850 billion annually; and former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill estimated the annual savings at $1 trillion.
Many of the tools needed to pursue these savings were contained in the new health care law – the Affordable Care Act – but since 40 percent of the nation’s health care spending involves federal tax dollars, enrollment in Medicare should be open to every American citizen.
Making medical care truly universal would save trillions of tax dollars while also enriching the lives of our people with better health.
Most importantly, Americans should recognize that the automatic tax increases and spending cuts putting pressure on Congress resulted from a crisis manufactured by the Tea Party intended to advance the destruction of good government.