Modern Healthcare - - OPINIONS EDITORIALS -

“Two fed­eral pro­grams that even Amer­i­cans who hate the fed­eral gov­ern­ment rely on are go­ing broke even faster than their trus­tees thought … But if last sum­mer’s failed bud­get ne­go­ti­a­tions are any guide, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and the di­vided Congress will do noth­ing this year to ad­dress ei­ther pro­gram’s loom­ing in­sol­vency. Doesn’t in­spire votes for ei­ther party this fall, does it? It’s hardly news that So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care are con­tin­u­ing to de­plete the re­serves they rely on to make up the dif­fer­ence be­tween cur­rent tax re­ceipts and ben­e­fit pay­ments. … Re­turn­ing ei­ther pro­gram to sol­vency will re­quire rais­ing rev­enues (via more ro­bust wage growth, higher taxes, or both) and/or re­duc­ing costs (by elim­i­nat­ing ben­e­fits, lim­it­ing cost-of-liv­ing in­creases, tight­en­ing el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments or pro­vid­ing more ef­fi­cient care). No doubt, the best so­lu­tion would ad­dress So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care as part of over­all tax re­form. … In a coun­try less ham­strung by par­ti­san grid­lock, ev­ery se­ri­ous pres­i­den­tial and con­gres­sional can­di­date would be con­strained to spend the next six months ex­plain­ing what com­bi­na­tion of … reme­dies he or she is will­ing to sup­port.”

—Detroit Free Press “Health­care, we’re told con­stantly, is big busi­ness. It’s a sixth of the to­tal econ­omy. In Au­gusta (Ga.), one of the South­east’s big­gest hubs of health­care, it seems even big­ger than that. … It can be one of a fam­ily’s or a busi­ness’ big­gest ex­penses, too. … Health­care is a le­gal ar­gu­ment, and in June will be a land­mark rul­ing—one of the most an­tic­i­pated, most con­se­quen­tial in U.S. his­tory. … Web­site Wikipedia de­fines health­care sim­ply, if clin­i­cally, as “the di­ag­no­sis, treat­ment, and preven­tion of dis­ease, ill­ness, in­jury, and other phys­i­cal and men­tal im­pair­ments in hu­mans.” It’s all these things, of course. But the busi­ness, fi­nan­cial, le­gal, po­lit­i­cal—and even clin­i­cal—as­pects of health­care too of­ten cover over the real, vi­tal essence of it. At its con­sid­er­able core, health­care is sim­ply about how long we will spend on this planet, and how com­fort­ably or pro­duc­tively. That not only hu­man­izes it, but gives it more ur­gency than all the facts and fig­ures you can toss into a po­lit­i­cal soup. … While we de­bate the pol­i­tics and the fi­nances and the le­gal­i­ties of health­care, let’s not lose sight of the most im­por­tant thing: health—and the avail­abil­ity of care.” —Au­gusta Chron­i­cle


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