It’s game on. But to understand the contest ”” and the associated scare tactics ”” it’s best to first understand a few unpleasant facts that are not in dispute:
”¢The popular old-age health insurance plan is on a financially unsustainable course. Medicare’s payroll tax and premiums that beneficiaries pay cover barely half the program’s costs, and as Baby Boomers retire, things will get worse. The tab is projected to rise rapidly: 7.6% a year for the doctor-care part of Medicare and 8.8% for the program’s prescription drug benefit, for example. The economy, a rough proxy for the nation’s ability to afford this, is growing less than 2% a year, leaving a huge gap.
”¢There is no painless fix. Both presidential candidates have committed to detailed plans for curbing costs, and no matter who wins, beneficiaries will pay more or get less, likely both. People who say otherwise are deluding themselves. As economist Herb Stein famously said: Anything that can’t go on forever won’t.