As the new Congress convenes, budget cutters are eyeing Medicare, citing forecasts the program for seniors is running out of money. But federal bean counters have erroneously predicted Medicare’s bankruptcy for decades. One reason: They don’t consider medical breakthroughs.
Another problem is medical ethicists like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who insist the elderly are a burden and that resources would be better spent on the young.
Surprised? Myth has it that the older people get, the sicker they are and the more costly their care becomes. But in truth, disability and chronic illness are declining among the elderly.
Octogenarians, and even centenarians, are staying active instead of languishing crippled in wheelchairs. How?
Medical advances such as carotid artery stenting and thrombolysis prevent stroke damage, something many seniors fear worse than death.
Scientists call this overall improvement in aging “compression of morbidity
.” The elderly live longer, stay healthier and have shorter illnesses at the end of life.
Patients mistakenly assume ventilators and feeding tubes are permanent. But most patients recover after these interventions. Few ever remember being on a ventilator after it’s removed because they’re sedated while on it.
Why would we emulate Zeke Emanuel, age 59, who swears that at 75, he will forego all medical care and let death come quickly? “Our older years are not of high quality
,” he insists. He’ll skip them. In The Atlantic magazine, he dismissed compression of morbidity as “quintessentially American” wishful thinking, and mocked seniors for trying to “cheat death.”
Sorry, Doc. It’s not a pipe dream. Science proves old age is getting better. It’s worth living.
Too often, Congress treats Medicare as a piggy bank – raiding it when money is needed elsewhere. In 2010, Democrats in Congress paid for over half of ObamaCare’s spending by cutting Medicare.
This year, Republican lawmakers eager to control federal health spending should avoid that error and instead focus on fixing Medicaid, the money pit program for the poor, where spending per capita is growing twice as fast as for Medicare.
Medicaid spending is nearing $8,000 per recipient. That’s thousands more than is spent on people in private plans. And for all that money, studies show Medicaid isn’t improving patients’ health
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.