Opinion

Medicare, Medicaid have room to improve

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Last week, politicians and other officials marked the 50th anniversary of Medicare and its offshoot, Medicaid. The term “celebrated” was thrown around a lot. And for many in West Virginia who would not otherwise have been able to afford the medical care they needed, the two government-run health-insurance programs have been incredibly important.

But it is also important to take a closer look at the numbers and what they mean. One-fourth of Mountain State residents depend on Medicare. That number does not include those who rely on Medicaid, the ranks of which swelled by another 100,000 when residents signed up for Obamacare.

Medicaid pays for more than 80 percent of all nursing home care in West Virginia.

So many West Virginians relying on the federal government for health care comes at a cost – a cost that is steadily rising. That cost falls to the taxpayers.

Programs such as Medicare and Medicaid have less incentive to manage rising costs than private insurers. So, while prescription drugs become exponentially more expensive, it seems almost by the day; while doctors and hospitals continue to cash in by ordering unnecessary procedures; while fraud and abuse are rampant, we pay.

For 50 years, we have paid.

A lot of good has come from the availability of Medicare and Medicaid, there is no doubt. Recent studies show Medicare’s patient rolls are healthier now than they have ever been. If they are to continue, however, the social programs must be adjusted to weed out inefficiencies and abuse; and to make room for an aging population.

Federal officials have made Medicare and Medicaid indispensable for too many. If another 50 years are ahead, they had better make the effort to make them work well.

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