Medicare Reform Bills Imperil Elderly, Writer Contends

The Medicare reform bills passed by the House and Senate would make the most sweeping overhaul in Medicare since the program''s inception. In an opinion piece in The New York Times, a political science professor contends that the bills now on the table will unravel "the social compact that has made Medicare an integral part of American social policy for nearly 40 years."

"[S]uch an overhaul will come at the peril of America''s elderly and disabled," says Jacob S. Hacker, an assistant professor of political science at Yale University and the author of "The Divided Welfare State: The Battle Over Public and Private Social Benefits in the United States." He maintains that the bills are stealth attempts to privatize Medicare under the guise of providing a very meager prescription drug benefit. Between the two bills, he sees the House measure as the more serious threat.

"[W]hile the Senate bill is indeed an attempt at compromise, albeit a deeply flawed one, the House bill is a radical measure directly at odds with Medicare''s longstanding aims," Hacker writes. "It threatens to cripple the program for generations to come. Bluntly put, the House legislation is a ruse."

Under the House measure, Hacker says, Medicare rates would eventually be dictated by market forces rather than by law, as is the case now. "Since the least healthy enrollees would most likely stay in traditional Medicare rather than brave the private market," he maintains, "the program''s premiums would likely rise substantially."

To read the full text of the opinion piece in The New York Times, click on: (Free registration required and article may be only temporarily available.)