Category : Medicare

(PS) Martin Feldstein–America’s Exploding Budget Deficit

The federal government’s debt has risen from less than 40% of GDP a decade ago to 78% now, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that the ratio will rise to 96% in 2028. Because foreign investors hold the majority of US government debt, this projection implies that they will absorb more than $6 trillion in US bonds during the next ten years. Long-term interest rates on US debt will have to rise substantially to induce domestic and foreign investors alike to hold this very large increase.

Why is this happening? Had last year’s tax legislation not been enacted, the 2028 debt ratio would still reach 93% of GDP, according to the CBO. So the cause of the exploding debt lies elsewhere.

The primary drivers of the deficit increase over the next decade are the higher cost of benefits for middle-class older individuals. More specifically, spending on Social Security retirement benefits is predicted to rise from 4.9% of GDP to 6%. Government spending on health care for the aged in the Medicare program – which, like Social Security, is not means tested – will rise from 3.5% of GDP to 5.1%. So these two programs will raise the annual deficit by 2.7% of GDP.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

A Picture is Worth 1000 words–The baby Boombers are Reaching Retirement

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Budget, Children, Economy, Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family, Medicaid, Medicare, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Social Security, Taxes, Young Adults

(WSJ) Why Entitlements Keep Growing, and Growing, and . . .An interview with John Cogan

Mr. [John] Cogan has just written a riveting, massive book, “The High Cost of Good Intentions,” on the history of entitlements in the U.S., and he describes how in 1972 the Senate “attached an across-the-board, permanent increase of 20% in Social Security benefits to a must-pass bill” on the debt ceiling. President Nixon grumbled loudly but signed it into law. In October, a month before his re-election, “Nixon reversed course and availed himself of an opportunity to take credit for the increase,” Mr. Cogan says. “When checks went out to some 28 million recipients, they were accompanied by a letter that said that the increase was ‘signed into law by President Richard Nixon.’ ”

The Nixon episode shows, says Mr. Cogan, that entitlements have been the main cause of America’s rising national debt since the early 1970s. Mr. Trump’s pact with the Democrats is part of a pattern: “The debt ceiling has to be raised this year because elected representatives have again failed to take action to control entitlement spending.”

A faculty member at Stanford’s Public Policy Program and a fellow at the university’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Cogan, 70, is one of those old-fangled American men who are always inclined to play down their achievements. The latest of his is the book that draws us together in conversation. To be published later this month by Stanford University Press, it is a 400-page account of how federal entitlement programs evolved across two centuries “and the common forces that have been at work in causing their expansion.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Budget, Credit Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The U.S. Government

(NYT Op-ed) Paul Volcker+ Peter Peterson–Ignoring the Debt Problem

Yes, this country can handle the nearly $600 billion federal deficit estimated for 2016. But the deficit has grown sharply this year, and will keep the national debt at about 75 percent of the gross domestic product, a ratio not seen since 1950, after the budget ballooned during World War II.

Long-term, that continued growth, driven by our tax and spending policies, will create the most significant fiscal challenge facing our country. The widely respected Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by midcentury our debt will rise to 140 percent of G.D.P., far above that in any previous era, even in times of war.

Unfortunately, despite a brief discussion during the final presidential debate, neither candidate has put forward a convincing plan to restrain the growth of the national debt in the decades to come.

Read it all. For a very important background on this, please see this 2011 post and the comments thereon, in which Boston University’s Laurence J. Kotlikoff makes clear that the true figure of our actual indebtedness is in excess of 200 Trillion dollars–KSH.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Peter Peterson Foundation–Have the Debt and Deficits Gotten Better?

But much more important is the steep upward trajectory of our long-term debt ”“ which remains as dangerous as ever. In its latest long-term outlook, released in June, CBO projected that the federal debt will climb to 141 percent of GDP by 2046 ”“ by far the highest level on record.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Medicare, Politics in General, Psychology, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(NYT) Panel Urges Overhauling Health Care at End of Life

The panel, which included doctors, nurses, insurers, religious leaders, lawyers and experts on aging, said Medicare and other insurers should create financial incentives for health care providers to have continuing conversations with patients on advance care planning, possibly starting as early as major teenage milestones like getting a driver’s license or going to college.

It called for a “major reorientation and restructuring of Medicare, Medicaid and other health care delivery programs” and the elimination of “perverse financial incentives” that encourage expensive hospital procedures when growing numbers of very sick and very old patients want low-tech services like home health care and pain management.

And it said that medical schools and groups that accredit and regulate health providers should greatly increase training in palliative care and set standards so that more clinicians know how to compassionately and effectively treat patients who want to be made comfortable but avoid extensive medical procedures.

Read it all.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Death / Burial / Funerals, Economy, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Medicaid, Medicare, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, The U.S. Government

(Local paper) Medicare leaves some 'observation' patients on the hook for huge bills

When 83-year-old Maybell Prewette spent one night in an Eden, N.C., hospital a few years ago because she felt dizzy, she was stunned to find out that a couple puffs of allergy nasal spray cost her more than $600.

Medicare didn’t cover the prescription because Prewette was never admitted as a patient at the hospital.

Instead, she was kept overnight for observation. The federal Medicare program doesn’t cover the cost of drugs self-administered by “observation status” patients.

Prewette called her local pharmacy after she was discharged and discovered it charges $30 for the same nasal spray. The hospital marked the medicine up 2,000 percent.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Medicare, Personal Finance, The U.S. Government, Theology

(HMS) $1.9 Billion in Medicare Waste: ”˜Tip of the Iceberg’

In the first large-scale study to directly measure wasteful spending in Medicare, researchers found that Medicare spent $1.9 billion in 2009 for patients to receive any of 26 tests and procedures that have been shown by empirical studies to offer little or no health benefit.

By analyzing Medicare claims data, researchers in the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy found that at least one in four Medicare recipients received one or more of these services in 2009. What’s more, those 26 services are just a small sample of the hundreds of services that are known to provide little or no medical value to patients in many circumstances.

“We suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said study author J. Michael McWilliams, associate professor of health care policy. The study appears today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Medicare, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Pew Research Reports important report on "the next America"

We start with this reality: Social Security and Medicare are practically sacrosanct. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans say they’re good for the country. That’s an amazing number. But the popularity of these programs really isn’t all that surprising. People love them because they do what they were created to do. They ease many of the frets and dreads of old age ”“ a blessing not just for seniors but for everyone who loves, supports and depends on seniors. Which is to say, everyone.

But the status quo is unsustainable. Some 10,000 Baby Boomers will be going on Social Security and Medicare every single day between now and 2030. By the time everyone in this big pig-in-the-python generation is drawing benefits, we’ll have just two workers per beneficiary ”“ down from three-to-one now, five-to-one in 1960 and more than forty-to-one in 1945, shortly after Social Security first started supporting beneficiaries.

The math of the 20th century simply won’t work in the 21st. Today’s young are paying taxes to support a level of benefits for today’s old that they have no realistic chance of receiving when they become old. And they know it ”“ just 6% of Millennials say they expect to receive full benefits from Social Security when they retire. Fully half believe they’ll get nothing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(NY Times) Treasury Secretary Sends Warning on Debt Limit

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.

The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc), Theology

(Gallup) Many Baby Boomers Reluctant to Retire

True to their “live to work” reputation, some baby boomers are digging in their heels at the workplace as they approach the traditional retirement age of 65. While the average age at which U.S. retirees say they retired has risen steadily from 57 to 61 in the past two decades, boomers — the youngest of whom will turn 50 this year — will likely extend it even further. Nearly half (49%) of boomers still working say they don’t expect to retire until they are 66 or older, including one in 10 who predict they will never retire.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Medicare, Middle Age, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, Social Security, Stock Market, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Bloomberg) Illustrating a broad shift, at 61 She Lives in Basement While 87-Year-Old Dad Travels

While plenty of baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, have become affluent and many elderly around the U.S. face financial hardship, the wealth disparity of this father and daughter is emblematic of a broad shift occurring around the country. A rising tide of graying baby boomers is less secure financially and has a lower standard of living than their aged parents.

The median net worth for U.S. households headed by boomers aged 55 to 64 was almost 8 percent lower, at $143,964, than those 75 and older in 2011, according to Census Bureau data. Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and many also lost their jobs in the aftermath at a critical point in their productive years.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Children, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Marriage & Family, Medicare, Middle Age, Pensions, Personal Finance, Psychology, Social Security, Stock Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The U.S. Government

(Washington Post) Robert Samuelson–The Latest Budget Deal is just more muddling through

But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.

On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(Wash Post Op-ed) Robert Samuelson–We need to stop coddling the elderly

No one wants to be against Grandma, who ”” as portrayed in the media ”” is kindly, often suffering from some condition, usually financially precarious and somehow needy. But projecting this sympathetic portrait onto the entire 65-plus population is an exercise in make-believe and, frequently, political propaganda. The St. Louis Fed study refutes the stereotype. Examining different age groups, it found that since the financial crisis, incomes have risen for the elderly while they’ve dropped for the young and middle-aged.

The numbers are instructive. From 2007, the year before the financial crisis, to 2010, median income for the families under 40 dropped 12.4 percent to $39,644. For the middle-aged from 40 to 61, the comparable decline was 11.9 percent to $56,924. Meanwhile, those aged 62 to 69 gained 12.3 percent to $50,825. For Americans 70-plus, the increase was 15.6 percent to $31,512. (All figures adjust for inflation and are in 2010 “constant” dollars. The “median income” is the midpoint of incomes and is often considered “typical.”)

There has been a historic shift in favor of today’s elderly. To put this in perspective, recall that many family expenses drop with age. Mortgages are paid off; work costs vanish; children leave. Recall also that incomes typically follow a “life cycle”: They start low in workers’ 20s, peak in their 50s, and then decline in retirement, as wages give way to government transfers and savings. Against these realities, the long-term gains of the elderly and losses of the young are astonishing. From 1989 to 2010, median income increased 60 percent for those aged 62 to 69 while falling 6”‰percent for those under 40 and 2”‰percent for those 40 to 61.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

Mike Shedlock–The Dysfunction of the US Healthcare System Explained in Six Succinct Points

1–A constant battle is underway between insurance companies that do not want to pay any claims, even legitimate ones, and doctors and hospitals incentivised to rip off patients, insurers, and taxpayers with unnecessary surgeries and Medicare fraud.

2–Insurance companies demand massive amounts of paperwork out of rational fear of fraud and unnecessary treatments. Doctors perform for-profit (as opposed to for-patient) procedures that guarantee more explanations and more paperwork.

3–Doctors and hospitals have direct personal contact with patients, but insurance companies don’t. In cases where doctors put patients at huge risk with needless procedures and surgeries, it’s easy for hospitals and doctors to point their finger at insurance companies. On the other hand, many sincere, honest doctors have difficulty getting patients the care they should have because insurers believe they are getting ripped off by unnecessary procedures, even when they aren’t….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Medicare, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ) Nicholas Hahn: Is Tax Policy really the Purview of Preachers?

The bishops might have been promoting a strictly Democratic line, but U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black was more ecumenical. Amid the shutdown, Rev. Black offered a daily prayer in the Senate chamber asking God to “save us from the madness. We acknowledge our transgressions, our shortcomings, our smugness, our selfishness, and our pride.” Later he condemned the “hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” His listeners in one party no doubt assumed he was talking about the other side.

It is one thing to spiritually shame politicians, as Rev. Black did. Trying to do their jobs is another. The bishops and other clergy in the Circle of Protection go well beyond their competencies when they make such policy prescriptions. Speaking about the moral issues of the day is certainly within their pastoral purview, but the bishops’ calls to raise revenues (aka taxes), for instance, or eliminate “unnecessary” military spending are not.

Bishops routinely assert their authority as “pastors and teachers,” as Bishops Blaire, Gomez and Pates did, but according to the tradition of their own church, they have no teaching authority when it comes to politics.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(WSJ) Stanley Druckenmiller: How Washington Really Redistributes Income, robbing future generations

Stan Druckenmiller makes an unlikely class warrior. He’s a member of the 1%””make that the 0.001%””one of the most successful money managers of all time, and 60 years old to boot. But lately he has been touring college campuses promoting a message of income redistribution you don’t hear out of Washington. It’s how federal entitlements like Medicare and Social Security are letting Mr. Druckenmiller’s generation rip off all those doting Barack Obama voters in Generation X, Y and Z.

“I have been shocked at the reception. I had planned to only visit Bowdoin, ” his alma mater in Maine, he says. But he has since been invited to multiple campuses, and even the kids at Stanford and Berkeley have welcomed his theme of generational theft. Harlem Children’s Zone President Geoffrey Canada and former Federal Reserve Governor Kevin Warsh have joined him at stops along the tour.

Mr. Druckenmiller describes the reaction of students: “The biggest question I got was, ‘How do we start a movement?’ And my answer was ‘I’m a 60-year-old washed-up money manager. I don’t know how to start a movement. That’s your job. But we did it in Vietnam without Twitter and without Facebook and without any social media. That’s your job.’ But the enthusiasm””they get it.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicare, Middle Age, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(FT) Analysts see US crisis deferred not solved

Standard & Poor’s is only raising half a cheer at the deal:

“We believe that to date, the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6 per cent off of annualised fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24bn out of the economy.

“The short turnround for politicians to negotiate some sort of lasting deal will probably weigh on consumer confidence, especially among government workers that were furloughed. If people are afraid that the government policy brinkmanship will resurface again, and with it the risk of another shutdown or worse, they’ll remain afraid to open up their cheque books. That points to another Humbug holiday season.”

Read it all (if necessary another link is there).

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, The United States Currency (Dollar etc)

(WSJ) Senate Leaders Are in Striking Distance of a Deal

Top Senate leaders on Monday said they were within striking distance of a deal to sidestep a looming debt crisis and reopen the federal government two weeks after a partisan deadlock forced it to close.

Fourteen days after a partial government shutdown began, senators signaled a bipartisan resolution could come soon.

“I’m very optimistic we will reach an agreement that’s reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation’s bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said on the Senate floor.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The Banking System/Sector, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Robert Hahn and Peter Passell–Mandatory health coverage could be a catalyst for a generational war

…it is still foolish to ignore the leverage that the individual mandate gives opponents of Obamacare. America’s healthcare system for the elderly (Medicare, plus Medicaid for nursing-home care) is already edging the country toward generational war because Washington will sooner or later be forced to choose between drastic limitations on coverage in those programs or drastic increases in taxes on the decreasing portion of working Americans. Now we’re adding a parallel obligation on younger workers to subsidize healthcare for fiftysomethings.

What to do? The path of least political resistance is to tough it out, hoping younger households will be unable to figure out what’s happening, or simply unwilling to throw in their lot with opponents of gay marriage, marijuana reform and the like. Alternatively, we could start paying attention to the building crisis as younger households scramble ever harder for a middle-class living standard.

And none too soon, because the signs of generational conflict are already appearing.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics in General, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(NY Times) The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath

Asthma ”” the most common chronic disease that affects Americans of all ages, about 40 million people ”” can usually be well controlled with drugs. But being able to afford prescription medications in the United States often requires top-notch insurance or plenty of disposable income, and time to hunt for deals and bargains.

The arsenal of medicines in the Hayeses’ kitchen helps explain why. Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented.

“The one that really blew my mind was the nasal spray,” said Robin Levi, Hannah and Abby’s mother, referring to her $80 co-payment for Rhinocort Aqua, a prescription drug that was selling for more than $250 a month in Oakland pharmacies last year but costs under $7 in Europe, where it is available over the counter.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Anthropology, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Medicaid, Medicare, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

A CBS 60 Minutes Expose on the American Disability Insurance System and the way its Gamed by Some

….the Federal Disability Insurance Program…serves nearly 12 million people — up 20 percent in the last six years — and has a budget of $135 billion. That’s more than the government spent last year on the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department, and the Labor Department combined. It’s been called a “secret welfare system” with it’s own “disability industrial complex,” a system ravaged by waste and fraud. A lot of people want to know what’s going on. Especially Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Tom Coburn: Go read the statute. If there’s any job in the economy you can perform, you are not eligible for disability. That’s pretty clear. So, where’d all those disabled people come from?

The Social Security Administration, which runs the disability program says the explosive surge is due to aging baby boomers and the lingering effects of a bad economy. But Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Subcommittee for Investigations — who’s also a physician — says it’s more complicated than that. Last year, his staff randomly selected hundreds of disability files and found that 25 percent of them should never have been approved — another 20 percent, he said, were highly questionable.

Read it all or better still watch the video.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Anthropology, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Medicare, Middle Age, Personal Finance, Psychology, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

In Washington, Shutdown Nears as Impasse Shows No Sign of Breaking

The federal government moved closer to a partial shutdown Sunday as Republican and Democratic lawmakers showed no signs of negotiating through a standoff over the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health law.

The standoff left little prospect that Congress could reach agreement on terms for funding the government by midnight Monday, when the current fiscal year expires. A shutdown would leave essential services operating but prompt federal agencies to suspend many functions and furlough hundreds of thousands of workers.

Early Sunday morning, after a late night of votes, the House passed a bill delaying the health law by one year and attached it to a plan to fund the government through Dec. 15. It also includes a provision repealing a tax on medical devices that is intended to help finance the health law. That legislation now goes back to the Senate.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

U.S. Shutdown Nears as House Votes to Delay Health Law

The federal government on Sunday morning barreled toward its first shutdown in 17 years after the Republican-run House, choosing a hard line, voted to attach a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and a repeal of a tax to pay for it to legislation to keep the government running.

The votes, just past midnight, followed an often-angry debate, with members shouting one another down on the House floor. Democrats insisted that Republicans refused to accept their losses in 2012, were putting contempt for the president over the good of the country and would bear responsibility for a shutdown. Republicans said they had the public on their side and were acting to protect Americans from a harmful and unpopular law that had already proved a failure.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Budget, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicaid, Medicare, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Senate, Social Security, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

(Washington Post) U.S. disability rolls swell in a rough economy

Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people in Penobscot County [Maine] receiving Social Security disability benefits skyrocketed, rising from 4,475 to 7,955 ”” or nearly one in 12 of the county’s adults between the ages of 18 and 64, according to Social Security statistics.

The fast expansion of disability here is part of a national trend that has seen the number of former workers receiving benefits soar from just over 5 million to 8.8 million between 2000 and 2012. An additional 2.1 million dependent children and spouses also receive benefits.

The crush of new recipients is putting unsustainable financial pressure on the program. Federal officials project that the program will exhaust its trust fund by 2016 ”” 20 years before the trust fund that supports Social Security’s old-age benefits is projected to run dry.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Medicare, Middle Age, Psychology, Social Security, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

(NPR Its All Politics Blog) CBO Report Warns Of Long-Term Debt Problems

There’s plenty of fodder for deficit hawks in a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In short, the future looks grim….

First, the good news: The CBO projects the deficit will shrink to $378 billion in 2015, or 2.1 percent of the size of the overall U.S. economy. Compared with just a few years ago when the budget gap ballooned as a result of the recession, this marks a nearly unprecedented improvement in the deficit picture. It’s a rapid decline in budget shortfalls not seen since the end of World War II. The national debt will bottom out in 2018, at 68 percent of GDP.

The bad news: From there, the picture gets decidedly less rosy. Budget deficits gradually rise, “mainly because of increasing interest costs and growing spending for Social Security and the government’s major health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies to be provided through the health insurance exchanges),” says the report. By 2038, the national debt will reach 100 percent of GDP….

Read it all and follow the link to the actual report.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Age, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology, Young Adults

(CSM) Harold Sirkin–To cut entitlements, US can look to one of Europe's welfare states

One of America’s chief fiscal burdens is the mounting cost of entitlements (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) ”“ an obligation that will only grow larger as baby boomers age. In tackling this problem, the United States should look to what many might see as an unlikely model ”“ the European welfare state, Sweden.

“Usually, U.S. policymakers look to Europe to determine what not to do when it comes to social-welfare policy,” James C. Capretta, former associate director of the US Office of Management and Budget, wrote a few years ago.

But, he continued: “When you are in a hole, the prudent first step is to stop digging, and the United States can indeed gain insight into how to ”˜stop digging’ the entitlement hole” by studying the reforms that some European countries have implemented. Most notably, he suggested, we should study what Sweden and Germany did to cut their long-term government pension commitments.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Aging / the Elderly, Budget, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Health & Medicine, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics in General, Social Security, Sweden, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government, Theology

Robert Samuelson–Can we Get Real About the deficit problem we Face?

Can we get real? For starters, $642 billion is serious money, and despite the modest improvements of the latest CBO report, the basic trends in federal finances remain the same. From 2014 to 2023, the government will spend $6 trillion more than it collects in taxes. The budget never comes close to balancing. Expanding spending on the elderly and health care continues to strangle the rest of government. As a share of the economy (gross domestic product), military and domestic discretionary programs (examples: drug approval, environmental regulation, Head Start, federal courts) drop about 40 percent from 2010 to 2023.

Nothing of consequence has changed. A few numbers have shifted slightly. That’s all. They moved in a favorable direction. Next time, they might go the other way. What’s also constant is the unwillingness of leaders of both parties, beginning with the president, to discuss budget choices candidly. The budget passed by the Democratic Senate barely touches entitlements for the elderly, which constitute the largest chunk of federal spending. The budget passed by the Republican House avoids a large tax increase only by making draconian and unrealistic spending cuts that would never pass Congress or be signed by the president.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Medicaid, Medicare, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate, Social Security, Taxes, The National Deficit, The U.S. Government

New federal report shows Lowcountry S.C. hospitals bill very different prices for same services

Hospitals around the Lowcountry are billing Medicare at vastly different prices for the exact same procedures, according to data published Wednesday by the federal government.

For example, in 2011, Trident Medical Center billed Medicare an average $98,352 to insert a permanent pacemaker, while the Medical University of South Carolina billed $38,902 for the same surgery.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Health & Medicine, Medicare, The U.S. Government

Ezra Klein–About the Obamacare ”˜train wreck’

My read of the evidence is that the Affordable Care Act will have a much tougher first year than was initially anticipated but it won’t be the catastrophe that Republicans hope. The exceptions will be a handful of states where Republican governors have purposefully made it a catastrophe, but that’s likely to make the Republican governors look bad, particularly if the law is working smoothly in states that have tried to make it a success.

Conservative commentary on the law, with its continuous predictions of explosive premium hikes (and continuous omissions of the offsetting subsidies) and gleeful celebration anytime anything looks to be going wrong, is risking the mistake that the Obama administration made early on with the sequester. When the predictions of pain and chaos didn’t instantly come true, the whole narrative shifted in an instant.

Republicans have done a very good job prepping the country for the pain of Obamacare. They’ve not done a good job prepping the country for the people who will be helped by Obamacare.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Medicare, Personal Finance, Politics in General, The U.S. Government, Theology