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No, Humans are NOT Living Longer than in the Past

2014 Medicare and Social Security Trustees' Reports

On Monday, the Medicare and Social Security Trustees released their annual report. Since it is 283 pages long, I'll give you the highlights as transmitted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) Media Center and NBC News.

If, at this point, you are inclined to fall asleep or click over to cuteoverload, you might want to pause for moment to read the good news:

”The Medicare Trustees today projected that the trust fund that finances Medicare’s hospital insurance coverage will remain solvent until 2030, four years beyond what was projected in last year’s report.”

It is due to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that both solvency of the trust fun and quality of care has been improved. In addition,

”Medicare spending per beneficiary has grown quite slowly over the past few years and is projected to continue to grow slowly over the next several years.

“During the past four years, per capita Medicare spending growth has averaged 0.8 percent annually, much more slowly than the average 3.1 percent annual increase in per capita GDP and national health expenditures over the same period.”

As you know, the premium we pay for Medicare Part B (traditional Medicare) for the next calendar year is not usually announced until October. However,

”...the preliminary estimate in the Report indicates that it will remain unchanged from the 2013 premium for the second consecutive year.”

That would be $104.90.

According to a NBC News early report on Monday, the average premium for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage is expected to increase by less than $2 a month.

Also according to that NBC News report:

”Social Security's massive retirement program will remain solvent until 2034, officials say, although disability benefits are in more immediate danger.

“The disability trust fund now is projected to run dry in 2016, unless Congress acts. At that point, the program will collect enough payroll taxes to pay only 81 percent of benefits.

“The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare project a 1.5 percent increase in monthly Social Security payments to beneficiaries for next year. That would be among the lowest since automatic adjustments were adopted in the 1970s.”

If you are up for nearly 300 pages, you can read the full report here [pdf].

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bettijane Eisenpreis: Progress is Our Least Important Product


This is one of those "good news, bad news" reports. While it's nice to know that Medicare is still solvent, it is frightening to think that there is a possibility that it will run out at a time when I will need it the most. I will be a pretty old codger by 2034 and the thought of having no health insurance is not something I'm looking forward to. July 30 marks the 49th anniversary of Medicare. It would be a good occasion to write you legislators and tell them to get up off their asses and pass legislation that will protect Medicare into the next millennium.On their website, the Gray Panthers have a form which you can submit to the editors of your local newspapers.

Better yet, let's tell our representatives and governors and employers and everyone else we can collar to listen that what we need is universal health care: the kind of care enjoyed by citizens of every other developed country in the world (except a couple of Balkan states and Belarus). Even some developing countries like Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, Kyrgystan and---ta-da!---Cuba have far better health care than we do. No matter what measures you use to assess quality of health care---cost, outcomes, efficiency, equity, access, life expectancy, pre- and -post-natal care---the good old U.S. of A. ranks dead last. And spends far, far more, sometimes twice as much of GDP on failed care.

John Boehner famously called our system "the best health care system in the world." One has to wonder which end of his ass he was talking out of. These hysterical critics of universal health care, who no longer even include doctors and other health care professionals, like to point to waiting times for major elective surgery and sometimes for sophisticated tests. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have never been rushed in that afternoon for a non-emergency MRI or scheduled tomorrow morning for surgery for a non-life threatening condition.

It is a tragedy that we can't get these idiots to see something that is so glaringly obvious and can be demonstrated on as many types of charts and graphs as the experts can come up with. The Affordable Care Act was a brave but feeble start on reforming a system which is itself on life support.

I am not even on Medicare, having slipped in for a no longer offered dispensation which allowed me to continue with my basic health insurance. I am no longer having babies or needing contraception. I've had more than my share of expensive surgeries, and I'm getting amazing eye care from a University teaching hospital. So I have no skin in the game, so to speak, but I'm deeply concerned about all the families and individuals who have either no or minimal health care now and all the elders who have to worry about the future of Medicare. It's WAY past time to change the system and I don't care what political party you supported in the past, right now the ONLY party with a chance in hell of fixing this broken system is the Democratic Party. And the only people with the hearts and souls big enough to put this change over are the elders of this country.

The problem with the current crop of obstructionist Republican right-wingers is that they are totally incapable of walking a foot--let alone a mile--in another person's shoes. It's called "absence of empathy". It seems wildly inconsistent to me that so many of them profess to be Christians while thinking and doing the exact opposite of what their religion has expected of its followers for centuries.

On top of that, most are wed to an ideology which recognizes no--and I mean zero-shades of gray. Their world is black or white, good or bad, made up of makers v. takers, etc. Compromise is a 4-letter word, and scientific evidence is to be rejected (e.g., evolution and climate change). To them anything else means relinquishing their all-important "principles". Although I am not a religious person, I have principles and they include doing what little I can to help others and look out for the planet. To me that's simply common sense.

I don't know what can be done to reach right-wing Republicans, especially those wearing funny hats adorned with tea bags. It feels like we are speaking two different languages, and that doesn't bode well for our collective future.

I agree with every word, Elizabeth. I guess What I'm saying is that since there is (I agree) zero possibility of attaining any kind of non-partisan effort to help the U.S. join the rest of the developed world, we might as well give up on that hope and work toward electing a comfortable majority of the party that MIGHT do the right thing. The Democratic Party is certainly not the answer to anyone's prayers, but their history tells us that they are slightly more sympathetic to progressive efforts. If only we could reincarnate the convictions and courage of FDR or at least shame the current party members into behaving like FDR.

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