With political ads defending and bashing various proposals about how to “fix” Medicare reaching a crescendo, fact-checkers are having a field day in sorting through who’s right and who’s wrong. The claim by Democrats that Paul Ryan’s reform bill would “end Medicare as we know it” was awarded the “lie of the year” by Politifact, while Factcheck.org named it one of the “Whoppers of 2011.” Even the liberal Washington Post gave the canard its highest—or lowest—rating of “four Pinnochios.”
Claims by Republicans that President Obama “raided” Medicare by cutting benefits and using bookkeeping entries as ways to fund ObamaCare without increasing the deficit are adding to the noise. They also claim that cuts to suppliers of medical services will ultimately result in reduced services for Medicare beneficiaries, reductions exacerbated by the unelected panel—the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)—charged with keeping costs in line through essentially dictatorial powers granted by ObamaCare.
What’s clear is that Medicare is in trouble, and has been almost from the beginning. In 1965, when Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, costs were estimated to approach $9 billion annually by the year 1990. It exceeded $65 billion that year. Last year Medicare spending touched $560 billion, and is headed toward $1 trillion in less than eight years.
Trustees are frightened about its future. Their 2012 annual report states: