Friday, August 06, 2010

It's My Birthday

I'm celebrating my 64th birthday today, so I searched for some good news to post on. Needless to say, that was a pretty fruitless search. Oh, I'm glad Elena Kagan has been confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, but I would have preferred an unabashed liberal. And the federal judge's decision that Prop H8 is unconstitutional was a real kick, but it's currently on its way to the Supreme Court and I have grave doubts that this decision will be approved by a majority of the justices.

My hopes for a positive post grew when I read the headline for this article on Medicare solvency. The lede certainly held some promise:

Medicare's finances have been strengthened by the new law setting in motion broad changes to the nation's health-care system, according to a government forecast issued Thursday, which says the fund that pays for older Americans' hospital care will last a dozen years longer than expected.

Alas, even that hopeful prediction was dashed just a few paragraphs later:

The Medicare program's chief actuary was far more skeptical, contending that the report's predictions "do not represent a reasonable expectation" of its finances. In a two-page letter accompanying the trustees' report, Richard S. Foster, a non-partisan official who has been the Health and Human Services Department's top financial expert on Medicare for 15 years, said he doubted that health-care providers will become as efficient as the new law envisions. As a result, he said, the program is unlikely to slow payments for treating patients as much as the law anticipates and, as a result, will be unable to save as much money.

I suspect that Mr. Foster's assessment is the more accurate, although he implies that there will be some improvement in efficiency and hence some savings. If the government steps up its efforts in Medicare fraud, those savings may turn out to be substantial. If health care providers stop ordering unnecessary tests (such as MRIs the day after a soft-tissue back sprain), those savings may be significant.

Still, half a loaf is better than none. One of the things I've learned over the years is that there are damned few unmixed blessings in life, but even the mixed ones can provide some relief. If nothing else, those mixed blessings can remind us that we can and must do better, especially when it comes to caring for people.

So, I'll enter the next year of my life by starting my research into the best Medicare policy for me and learning about how much I can earn after my 65th birthday without screwing up my social security benefits which I intend to take a year earlier than planned.

And I'll remember what an elder friend of mine once said: "Any day this side of the dirt is a good one."

Wise man,him.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have a Happy Birthday!


5:06 AM  
Blogger Pen Ultimate said...


5:12 PM  
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11:00 PM  
Anonymous paula said...

I hope this is a great year for you, and that you can keep up the great work you do on this blog. Best wishes!

6:28 AM  
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