The Washington Post is correct on Medicare reform


Over the last few months, The Washington Post has pushed hard for Medicare reform in several in-house editorials. First, it was an editorial claiming President Obama sounded like a man who was ready to step up to the plate and reform the program. A few weeks later, the Post slammed the President for not leading on Medicare reform. Now, the editorial page is offering its own solutions.

It is not the intent of this post to necessarily analyze the editorial’s policy specifics, per se. Instead, let’s focus on three other important things the Post wrote.

First, the editorial simultaneously points out the obvious truth about Medicare, and calls out the President for his dishonest campaign rhetoric regarding Medicare reform:

ON NEW YEAR’S DAY, President Obama looked ahead to the post-“fiscal cliff” deficit-reduction battles and declared: “I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care . . . [make] Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit. I believe we’ve got to find ways to reform that program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive.” The question — a tricky one for a president who won reelection in part by defending “Medicare as we know it” — is how to accomplish this feat. Medicare as we know it is not sustainable.

Second, the editorial made it clear that the costs are rising far more quickly than many will admit:

Medicare cost $555 billion in 2012, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO has projected that this number, already 15 percent of non-interest federal spending, will nearly double by 2022.

Most importantly, the editorial states the unfortunate truth about Washington – neither party is going to push real, lasting Medicare reform:

We’re loath to let Washington off the hook for a more permanent, fundamental Medicare fix. But given the uncertainties, political and economic, of that endeavor, pursuing specific incremental reforms is a plausible second-best solution. It won’t be painless, but neither is inaction.

In the long run, Medicare is projected to be the major problem with the federal budget, along with interest payments. While the Post’s solutions won’t prevent this, they will give Washington more time to come up with a real, substantive solution. Is this a distant second-best to real reform? Absolutely. But at least the Post is coming up with something. Congress should take note.