The forecast for the Medicare program remains the same as last year, with the program expected to remain solvent until 2024. But the program's solvency depends on several financial and political assumptions that are unpredictable.
The Medicare Trustees Report, released Monday, said that by 2024, the Medicare program will become exhausted and would, in 2024, only have funds sufficient to pay 87 percent of costs.
Issues such as the 31 percent Medicare reduction to physician pay, the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act and what happens with the deficit reduction agreement to cut Medicare spending will affect the program, said the trustees in their report.
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"Lawmakers should address the financial challenges facing Social Security and Medicare as soon as possible," the trustees said in the conclusion of their report. "Taking action sooner rather than later will leave more options and more time available to phase in changes so that the public has adequate time to prepare."
"The Trustees Report tells us that while Medicare is stable for now, we have a lot of work ahead of us to guarantee its future," said Marilyn Tavenner, the acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in a statement reacting to the Medicare Trustees Fund report. "The Affordable Care Act is giving CMS the ability to do this work, with tools to lower costs, fight fraud and change incentives so that Medicare pays for coordinated, quality care and not the number of services."
While the Obama administration found in the report evidence supporting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to the Medicare program, Republicans of the GOP Doctors Caucus claimed the report shows how the ACA is undermining patients' access to Medicare services.
"The Medicare Trustees report makes it clear that we need action now to preserve and protect this vital program for current beneficiaries and future retirees," said Rep. Larry Bucshon, MD, (R-Ind.), in a statement released by the GOP Doctors Caucus. "The aging population and rising costs in healthcare are contributing to the approaching date of insolvency. Furthermore, the attempt to mask these issues by cutting $575 billion through Obamacare is more proof that this administration has no plan to keep our promises to our nation's seniors. As a physician that mostly treated the Medicare population, it is unimaginable to continue ignoring this issue. Those that choose to do so should get their heads out of the sand."
Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.