From the AP
Baby boomers take note: Medicare as your parents have known it is headed for big changes no matter who wins the White House in 2012. You may not like it, but you might have to accept it.
Dial down the partisan rhetoric and surprising similarities emerge from competing policy prescriptions by President Barack Obama and leading Republicans such as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
Limit the overall growth of Medicare spending? It’s in both approaches.
Squeeze more money from upper-income retirees and some in the middle-class? Ditto.
Raise the eligibility age? That too, if the deal is right.
With more than 1.5 million baby boomers a year signing up for Medicare, the program’s future is one of the most important economic issues for anyone now 50 or older. Health care costs are the most unpredictable part of retirement, and Medicare remains an exceptional deal for retirees, who can reap benefits worth far more than the payroll taxes they paid in during their careers.
“People would like to have what they used to have. What they don’t seem to understand is that it’s already changed,” said Gail Wilensky, a former Medicare administrator and adviser to Republicans. “Medicare as we have known it is not part of our future.”
The rest of the piece is worth reading.
The one point that is never made in these analyses is that baby-boomers, gen-xers, gen-yers, millenials, etc. have contracepted and aborted these programs into bankruptcy.
Neither Medicare nor Social Security were designed to support an individual funding his own retirement annuity or retirement medical coverage. They were designed so that the funds paid (taxed) from people currently in the workforce would fund current retirees and that, when those current workers would retire, replacement workers in the workforce would fund their retirement. They depend upon having multiple people in the current workforce in order to fund a relatively smaller number that are in retirement.
The other fallacy that is only very, very, very rarely pointed out is that somehow excess funds were placed in a secure “trust fund.” They weren’t. They were just shuffled into the Treasury’s general fund and spent (exchanging taxes for worthless pieces of paper that would never realistically be able to be cashed in). Before slamming anybody for “raiding the Social Security Trust Fund”, I strongly suggest a careful reading of the Social Security Act of 1935. That is precisely how the system was designed to operate.
And, since both social security and medicare are “third rail” programs (touch them and you will be electorally killed), neither party is actually willing to do more than fiddle around the edges with them.