Medicare Bill Makes Fiscal Problems Worse, Watchdog Says

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

( - A government watchdog group is criticizing the government for overseeing the fiscal deterioration of the Medicare program over the last four decades.

According to trustees that oversee Medicare and Social Security, thanks to a new Medicare bill, the health insurance program will run out of money seven years sooner than predicted last year.

"Politicians in Washington ignored this problem for several decades, and then they make it worse by adding a costly prescription drug benefit," said Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz. "The retirement of the baby boomers will spell fiscal doom for older and younger generations alike."

The report says despite the president's promise that the new Medicare bill would make things better for the struggling program, Medicare's finances have "taken a major turn for the worse."

"Congressional attempts at lowering health costs completely miss the mark," said Schatz. "They try to import foreign price controls and regulate eating habits when they should be reversing the government's disastrous intrusion into the health care system."

Changes to the law account for two years out of the seven-year acceleration toward fiscal insolvency, the report said. The prescription drug benefit does not count towards that deficit, because it is funded out of general revenue, not the hospital trust that is the main focus of the trustees' report.

"Today's politicians are raiding the paychecks of the unborn to impress senior citizens before the 2004 elections," said Schatz. "In the last four months, the bill's cost rose from $400 billion to $534 billion. Imagine what the cost will be 10 years from now!"

In 1965, Medicare was predicted to cost $26 billion in 2003, but the actual cost is $245 billion. Medicare's unfunded liability is close to $40 trillion. The program that pays for doctor's visits ran a $10.3 billion deficit last year and is expected to have a $1.7 billion deficit this year, despite congressional efforts to prevent these shortfalls.

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