A Brokered Marriage: Medicare and Workers’ Compensation
The problems of old age are now worrying are beginning to influence decision makers on what to do with two major delivery system in the United States. Both the Medicare system and the workers’ compensation medical delivery system are now ailing. The fiscal remedy maybe their marriage.
The Medicare Hospital Fund will be insolvent by 2017. The Trustees of the program have indicated that the program has been paying out more than it has collected in taxes and interest over the last two years. This estimated date of insolvency is two years ahead of schedule and the shortfall will necessitate a deposit of $13.4 trillion.
Robert Pear reported in the NY Times this week, “’The financial outlook for the hospital insurance trust fund is significantly less favorable than projected in last year's annual report,’ the trustees said, adding, ‘Actual payroll tax income in 2008 and projected future amounts are significantly lower than previously projected, due to lower levels of average wages and fewer covered workers.’”
The workers’ compensation medical delivery system has been plagued with a set of its own difficulties including: cost shifting to Medicare and reimbursement issues, rising costs that now exceed the indemnity aspect of the program, lack of uniformity and delay in delivery of medical benefits, staggering litigation and administrative costs and uncertainty as to future premiums because of a failing economy.
The voice of change is now being heard in Washington as health care takes the stage front and center on the issues of affordability and choice. David Axelrod has indicated that the Administration is committed to "fix what's broken in the system and preserve what's good."
When the Social Security system was initial enacted, the country faced similar economic troubles. Employee medical coverage was not a consideration of the original program. The geriatric nature of both the Social Security system and the multiple workers’ compensation programs are now evidencing the problems of old age. A marriage of convenience maybe just what the future holds.