Health Care Reform Is Key to Saving Medicare, Obama Administration Says

By Susan Jones | May 13, 2009 | 8:52 AM EDT

( – The Obama administration says health care reform is the best way to shore up Medicare.
On Tuesday, the government reported that Medicare -- the government-run entitlement program that provides care for millions of senior and disabled citizens -- is heading for insolvency by 2017, two years earlier than the date projected in last year’s report.
The Medicare program for hospital expenses will pay out more in benefits than it collects this year, the trustees said.
Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – commenting Tuesday on the Medicare trustees’ new report – said the Obama administration “will do whatever it takes to protect” Medicare. She called the trustees’ report “yet another sign that we can’t wait for real, comprehensive health reform.”
“When previously uninsured Americans join Medicare, they are less healthy and cost the system more,” Sebelius said. “Giving the uninsured coverage before they join Medicare will improve their quality of life and save money for Medicare.”
President Obama himself has insisted the “health care reform is entitlement reform,” and he has made reform a priority.
On Monday, he said he wants to reduce rising medical costs, he wants Americans to be able to keep whatever health plan they currently have, and he wants all Americans to have “quality, affordable” health care.
“These are the principles that I expect to see upheld in any comprehensive health care reform bill that’s sent to my desk,” Obama said on May 11.
Failure to act on health care reform will only boost Medicare spending, Sebelius warned on Tuesday. “All of us in the Administration look forward to working with Congress to make (health) reform a reality,” she added.
Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, said with the nation’s entitlement programs quickly going bankrupt, now is not the time to pass an expensive, government-run health-care plan.
“Our nation’s entitlement programs are quickly going bankrupt and yet President Obama has not offered a plan to preserve Medicare and Social Security for our children and grandchildren,” Pence said in a statement.
“Instead, the administration and Democrats in Congress would rather pass a government-controlled health care plan that will deprive roughly 120 million Americans of their current health care coverage and lead to federal bureaucrats denying critical care for patients.
“Taking money from seniors to pay for a government takeover of health care is an irresponsible prescription for reform,” Pence concluded.
President Obama’s fiscal 2010 budget blueprint, released in late February, includes a $634 billion “reserve fund” – or down payment -- to help pay for health care reform over the next ten years.