When it comes to government and health care, it’s easy to focus on all the things that have gone wrong. But for those who haven’t reached Medicare age yet, as well as those currently relying on it for their health and well-being, we’re happy to share a bit of good news. Last week, the Medicare trustees (four federal officials and two public representatives) reported that the program will be solvent through 2026, much longer than previously projected.
Not only that, but the trustees also project that the Medicare Part B premium will not increase between 2013 and 2014, keeping seniors’ out-of-pocket costs down. According to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Medicare spending per person rose at a historically low rate of 1.7 percent a year from 2010 to 2012, while in the two decades prior, the spending rate had risen more than 6 percent a year, on average. The trustees’ report also indicates that Medicare spending per beneficiary will grow more slowly than the economy through 2017.
The trustees say the improved outlook for Medicare can be attributed in part to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which has reined in health care costs and also driven innovation through the creation of new care models, payment incentives, and greater efficiency by health care providers.
While it can be difficult to know what to believe as we hear conflicting reports about health care spending, the trustees’ reports are said to be produced with minimal political interference, incorporating the work of civil servants such as actuaries and economists who have been studying the programs for decades.
But don’t plan a major Medicare celebration just yet. Officials are declaring the Medicare changes a “modest improvement,” recognizing that more work has to be done to keep the program on solid ground for the long haul.