Big changes in Medicare appear to be inevitable

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Big changes in Medicare appear to be inevitable

Dayton Daily News – No matter which sides prevails in the intensely ideological and partisan debate in Washington over the mushrooming costs of Medicare, one thing is certain: The program as we know it is in for big changes.

Driving the sharply competing revisions outlined by President Barack Obama and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is the realization that it is nearly impossible to balance the federal budget without changing Medicare or the way it is financed.

The cost of the Great Society program, which covers more than half the health costs of the nation’s seniors, has skyrocketed from $111 billion in 1990 to $509 billion in 2009. With the number of Americans eligible for the program expected to soar from 47 million today to 62 million in 2019, annual Medicare spending will increase to $895 billion by the end of the decade.

Even though changes in the new health law Obama signed last year have helped Medicare’s long-term balance sheet, the Medicare Board of Trustees in its annual report to Congress last year warned that by 2029, the Part A trust fund — which pays for hospital and hospice care for the elderly — will be exhausted.

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