Tag Archives: Medicare

Agenda-driven reporting: Vox claims Australia has solved its gun problem. They haven’t read “How Melbourne Became A Gun City”

There’s some interesting statistics that liberals push in their quest for gun control and some interesting facts that prove they haven’t done their homework in order to push a desired narrative.

Warning: This is a long read. Take your time to read through the whole blog post or bookmark it to read later. The actual data/stories out of Melbourne are an eye-opener yet not surprising.


In response to the Vegas shooting, liberals love to trot out the gun-control example of Australia and its mandatory gun buyback which resulted after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. During that mass shooting, 35 people were killed and 23 were wounded.

A brief history of Australia’s mandatory gun buyback, from to Wikipedia:

Australians reacted to the event with widespread shock and horror, and the political effects were significant and long-lasting. The federal government led state governments, some of which (notably Tasmania itself and Queensland) were opposed to new gun laws, to severely restrict the availability of firearms. While surveys showed up to 85% of Australians ‘supported gun control’,] many people opposed the new laws. Concern was raised within the Coalition Government that fringe groups such as the ‘Ausi Freedom Scouts’, the Australian League of Rights and the Citizen Initiated Referendum Party, were exploiting voter anger to gain support. After discovering that the Christian Coalition and US National Rifle Association were supporting the gun lobby, the government and media cited their support, along with the moral outrage of the community to discredit the gun lobby as extremists.

Under federal government co-ordination, all states and territories of Australia restricted the legal ownership and use of self-loading rifles, self-loading shotguns, and tightened controls on their legal use by recreational shooters. The government initiated a mandatory “buy-back” scheme with the owners paid according to a table of valuations. Some 643,000 firearms were handed in at a cost of $350 million which was funded by a temporary increase in the Medicare levy which raised $500 million. Media, activists, politicians and some family members of victims, notably Walter Mikac (who lost his wife and two children), spoke out in favour of the changes.”

On October 3, two days after the Vegas shooting, Vox author Ella Nilsen published an article entitled, “The Weeds: Australia solved its gun problem. Could America?”

Excerpt from Ella’s article:

“Through that program, the government was able to get rid of about 650,000 guns. But as Sarah notes, the program went further still, introducing a ban on automatic and semiautomatic weapons, putting in new licensing requirements, and making people wait 28 days before they purchased a gun.

The proposal worked, with suicide rates in Australia dropping about 57 percent after the reforms were implemented, and homicide rates dropping 47 percent, according to studies by Harvard researchers.”

I decided to click on the “proposal worked” link to verify Ella’s statement that “suicide rates in Australia dropping about 57 percent” and “homicide rates dropping 47 percent.”

When I clicked on that link, it took me to a Vox article dated one day before the Vegas shooting on October 2: “Australia confiscated 650,000 guns. Murders and suicides plummeted.”

The author of that Vox article is Zack Beauchamp, whose Twitter bio says “Senior Reporter. Vox. (((Globalist))). From Zack’s article:

It is worth considering, as one data point in the pool of evidence about what sorts of gun control policies do and do not work, the experience of Australia. Between October 1996 and September 1997, Australia responded to its own gun violence problem with a solution that was both straightforward and severe: It collected roughly 650,000 privately held guns. It was one of the largest mandatory gun buyback programs in recent history.

And it worked. That does not mean that something even remotely similar would work in the US — they are, needless to say, different countries — but it is worth at least looking at their experience.

According to one academic estimate, the buyback took in and destroyed 20 percent of all privately owned guns in Australia. Analysis of import data suggests that Australians haven’t purchased nearly enough guns in the past 18 years to make up for the initial decline.

I decided to click on the “import data” link to verify Zack’s statement that “Australians haven’t purchase nearly enough guns in the past 18 years to make up for the initial decline.”

When I clicked on that link, it took me to a PDF discussion paper entitled, “Do Gun Buyback Save Lives? Evidence from Panel Data.” The paper is authored by Andrew Leigh from Australian National University and IZA*, and Christine Neill from Wilfrid Laurier University. The discussion paper is dated June 2010.

*From Wikipedia: The IZA – Institute of Labor Economics (German: Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit), until 2016 referred to as the Institute of the Study of Labor (IZA), is a private, independent economic research institute and academic network focused on the analysis of global labor markets and headquartered in Bonn, Germany.

IZA is supported by the Deutsche Post Foundation. From my web research, I found that the Deutsche Post Foundation is a non-profit think tank from Germany’s largest employer, Deutsche Post, which is a postal service and international courier service company (the world’s largest).

According to Handelsblatt Global, the think tank is headed by Klaus Zumwinkel, a former Post chief executive who was convicted of tax evasion in 2009. Despite his conviction for tax evasion, the former executive is still in charge (as of 2015) of the multi-million-euro, not-for-profit foundation and an influential non-profit economic research institute, both of which have links to Deutsche Post.

Mr. Zumwinkel, who is in self-imposed exile in Italy and London, founded the Deutsche Post Foundation in 1998 during his tenure as chief executive and chairman of the postal service. (I could not read the rest of the article due to subscription requirement.)

So back to the discussion paper dated June 2010. From the abstract:

In 1997, Australia implemented a gun buyback program that reduced the stock of firearms by around one-fifth. Using differences across states in the number of firearms withdrawn, we test whether the reduction in firearms availability affected firearm homicide and suicide rates. We find that the buyback led to a drop in the firearm suicide rates of almost 80 per cent [sic], with no statistically significant effect on non-firearm death rates. The estimated effect on firearm homicides is of similar magnitude, but is less precise. The results are robust to a variety of specification checks, and to instrumenting the state-level buyback rate.”

I’m not surprised that the first Vox link took me to another Vox article. And I’m not surprised that the “import data” link Vox provided took me to a discussion paper from over seven years ago. Why didn’t Vox provide some more current statistical information? That is a rhetorical question, of course.

So what has been happening with gun violence in Australia since their mandatory gun buyback program? Here’s some current information that you will find interesting and liberals will not promote.

I found a 2016 three-part series published by the Melbourne newspaper called The Age. There is no date stamp on the articles yet their statistical data charts go through 2016. The series is entitled, “How Melbourne Became a Gun City.” Here’s the title of the three articles:

Statistical data in the series is courtesy of the Coroners Court of Victoria, Crimes Statistics Agency, and Monash University’s Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit.

Below are highlights from each of the articles. Feel free to read them on your own time as they provide a lot of information regarding gun violence that still exists, and is growing, in the liberals’ favorite “gun-control model” of Australia.

Part One: Young, Dumb and Armed

A brazen new breed of criminals is taking up arms at unprecedented rates and they aren’t afraid to use them.

Despite Australia’s strict gun control regime, criminals are now better armed than at any time since then-Prime Minister John Howard introduced a nationwide firearm buyback scheme in response to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

Shootings have become almost a weekly occurrence, with more than 125 people, mostly young men, wounded in the past five years.

While the body count was higher during Melbourne’s ‘Underbelly War’ (1999-2005), more people have been seriously maimed in the recent spate of shootings and reprisals.

Crimes associated with firearm possession have also more than doubled, driven by the easy availability of handguns, semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and, increasingly, machine guns, that are smuggled into the country or stolen from licensed owners.

In this series, Fairfax Media looks at Melbourne’s gun problem and the new breed of criminals behind the escalating violence. The investigation has found:

  • There have been at least 99 shootings in the past 20 months – more than one incident a week since January 2015
  • Known criminals were caught with firearms 755 times last year, compared to 143 times in 2011
  • The epicentre of the problem is a triangle between Coolaroo, Campbellfield and Glenroy in the north-west, with Cranbourne, Narre Warren and Dandenong in the south-east close behind
  • Criminals are using gunshot wounds to the arms and legs as warnings to pay debts
  • Assault rifles and handguns are being smuggled into Australia via shipments of electronics and metal parts

In response to the violence, it can be revealed the state government is planning to introduce new criminal offences for drive-by shootings, manufacturing of firearms with new technologies such as 3D printers, and more police powers to keep weapons out of the hands of known criminals.

Part Two: Gunslingers of the Northwest

It is the triangle of Melbourne suburbs where those with guns rule the streets and sleeping children are no longer safe from the bullets.

As a wave of gun crime washes through Melbourne’s streets – with at least 100 shootings in the past 20 months – the number of bullets being fired has inevitably led to unintended victims.

These neighbourhoods are littered with reminders of violence: there is the business owned by a man who lost one brother at the end of a firearm, another to a drug overdose; the street in Dallas where a 19-year-old was found dying from a gunshot wound in July; the Broadmeadows house, with the carcasses of three cars in the front yard, which was struck in a recent drive-by shooting.

Typically, guns fall into the hands of criminals in three ways: stolen from registered owners, mostly from farms or other regional properties; illegally imported; or from the “grey market” of illicit firearms created after a wider range of guns were made illegal as part of sweeping reforms introduced in 1996.

Part Three: Chasing the Silver Bullet

Gun violence is gripping the city and as Victoria’s justice system and politicians come under fire for failing to tackle the crime wave, cops on the frontline have become the targets of real bullets.

Meanwhile, the number of guns on the street swells. Firearms offences have doubled in the past five years. There is now a shooting once a week. It is only a matter of time before more innocent people get caught in the crossfire.

Last year alone, there were 755 incidents in which “prohibited persons” – those with serious criminal convictions – were caught with firearms. It’s a five-fold increase since 2011, according to the Crime Statistics Agency.

Part of the problem is no one can really pin down where all the illegal guns are coming from.  Authorities point to the “grey market” the term given to rifles and shotguns that were not handed back in the 1996 amnesty that followed the Port Arthur massacre and have circulated for the past two decades.

A new national gun amnesty, which many have advocated for, would lead to the voluntary surrender of illicit weapons. Gun control advocates say a new amnesty would particularly target those grey market firearms.

But that argument doesn’t account for the many handguns that have been used in recent shootings. Handguns were not part of the original amnesty, and hence are not part of the grey market.

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission chief executive officer Chris Dawson admits the “serious national problem” of illegal guns circulating through the country is far from well-defined. Guns, points out Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Stephen Fontana, are surprisingly easy to hide, and traffick.


The next time a liberal tells you how wonderful Australia’s gun buyback program has worked, point them to the “How Melbourne Became a Gun City” series.  Remind them that criminals never follow the laws.

Thanks for reading!

DCG

Advertisements

Perpetual blame game: Clinton suggests Bernie Sanders resorted to “innuendo and impugning my character” to gain ground in the primary

hillary-clinton-screams-why-arent-i-50-points-ahead

Hillary the loser.

Must suck to be so bitter.

From Daily Mail: Hillary Clinton‘s frustrations with Bernie Sanders spill out onto the pages of her forthcoming book, What Happened, as she gripes about his campaign tactics and the fact that he was never truly a Democrat. 

‘Because we agreed on so much, Bernie couldn’t make an argument against me in this area on policy, so he had to resort to innuendo and impugning my character,’ Clinton writes, according to a page tweeted out by journalist and CauseWired founder Tom Watson.

The Vermont senator, Clinton charged, laid the foundation for Donald Trump‘s ‘Crooked Hillary’ charge against her, and didn’t have the future of the Democratic Party in mind during his run.

‘Some of his supporters, the so-called Bernie Bros, took to harassing my supporters online. It got ugly and more than a little sexist,’ Clinton recalled.

During the primary, Sanders would often hint that Clinton was corrupt because of financial donations she took from Wall Street and other large companies. ‘When I finally challenged Bernie during a debate to name a single time I changed a position or a vote because of a financial contribution he couldn’t come up with anything,’ Clinton noted.

‘Nonetheless, his attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s “Crooked Hillary” campaign,’ she said.

Clinton wondered aloud if Sanders even cared, as he considered himself a Democratic Socialist, and not a Democrat, and thought about running for president as an independent.  

‘I don’t know if that bothered Bernie or not,’ she said. ‘He certainly shared my horror at the thought of Donald Trump becoming president, and I appreciated that he campaigned for me in the general election.’

‘But he isn’t a Democrat – that’s not a smear, that’s what he says,’ Clinton continued.’

‘He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House, he got in to disrupt the Democratic Party,’ she noted.

Clinton said Sanders was right that the Democratic Party needed to pay more attention to working families.  And she also pointed out that there’s a ‘danger’ in spending too much time fundraising, though blamed it on the country’s ‘insane campaign finance system.’

Clinton also gave credit to Sanders for bringing a lot of young people into the political process.

‘But I think he was fundamentally wrong about the Democratic Party – the party that brought us Social Security under Roosevelt; Medicare and Medicaid under Johnson; peace between Israel and Egypt under Carter; broad-based prosperity and a balanced budget under Clinton; and rescued the auto industry, passed health care reform and imposed tough new rules on Wall Street under Obama,’ Clinton noted.

‘I am proud to be a Democrat and I wish Bernie were, too,’ Clinton said. 

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

Demorats launch “A Better Deal” platform. Their top agenda item: corporate mergers

a better deal

Because corporate mergers are what Americans are truly worried about. Good luck with that platform demorats!

From MSN: Democrats rolled out a new economic platform Monday in hopes of winning over President Donald Trump‘s populist base with promises to take on big businesses, lower the cost of prescription drugs and create jobs.

The campaign — “A Better Deal” — is intended as a counterpunch to the president’s frequent criticism of the lackluster recovery and stagnant wages under President Barack Obama and Trump’s vow to restore the economy to 3 percent annual growth. Democrats are also searching for ways to reconnect with working-class voters whose deep frustration with their own economic prospects helped drive their support for Trump.

“It is an ambitious economic agenda that represents a renewed Democratic commitment to the hard-working men and women across the United States who have been left out and left behind for too long,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.

Among Democrats’ top agenda items is greater scrutiny of corporate mergers, including tougher standards that incorporate consumer privacy, product quality and the impact on wages and jobs. Democrats are also seeking post-merger reviews and greater enforcement authority.

Those responsibilities would be carried out by a new competition advocate that Democrats have nicknamed the “Trust Buster.” One of the deals that could be targeted is AT&T (T)’s $85 billion bid for Time Warner (TWX), which is awaiting regulatory approval. Other sectors that could wind up in the crosshairs include the beer industry, airlines and eyeglasses.

“We will revisit our antitrust laws to ensure that the economic freedom of all Americans — consumers, workers and small businesses — come before big corporations that are getting even bigger,” the document read.

Prescription Drug Prices: The plan would revamp Medicare by allowing the program known as “Part D” to negotiate prices directly with drugmakers.

“It is ridiculous that Big Pharma has controlled Washington for so long and has refused to even budge on the notion that we ought to negotiate for lower prices,” Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said in a YouTube video outlining the platform.

The campaign would also expand apprenticeship and vocational programs, as well as establish a tax credit for companies that provide on-the-job training. Additional pieces of the broader proposal will be unveiled in the coming months, such as addressing the cost of higher education, infrastructure investment and creating a national family leave program.

In addition to Pelosi, top Democrats Sens. Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren are slated to outline the campaign later Monday, laying the groundwork for the party’s message in the 2018 midterm elections and beyond. The rollout takes place in Clarke County, Virginia, part of a congressional district that Democrats have long fought to turn blue. It is represented in the House by Republican Barbara Comstock and won by Trump in November.

However, Democrats do not directly mention Trump in their strategy documents, though the campaign’s title clearly references the president’s signature book, “The Art of the Deal.” Resistance to the Trump administration has energized the party’s base, but Democrats are hoping to complement that with a more optimistic vision of the nation’s economic potential.

“In the last two elections, Democrats, including in the Senate, failed to articulate a strong, bold economic program for the middle class and those working hard to get there,” Schumer wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times. “We also failed to communicate our values to show that we were on the side of working people, not the special interests. We will not repeat the same mistake.”

DCG

The price tag on universal health care in California is bigger than state’s budget

government solve all problems

Shocker, not.

From Sacramento Bee: The pricetag is in: It would cost $400 billion to remake California’s health insurance marketplace and create a publicly funded universal health care system, according to a state financial analysis released Monday.

California would have to find an additional $200 billion per year, including in new tax revenues, to create a so-called “single-payer” system, the analysis by the Senate Appropriations committee found. The estimate assumes the state would retain the existing $200 billion in local, state and federal funding it currently receives to offset the total $400 billion price tag.

The cost analysis is seen as the biggest hurdle to create a universal system, proposed by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

It remains a longshot bid. Steep projected costs have derailed efforts over the past two decades to establish such a health care system in California. The cost is higher than the $180 billion in proposed general fund and special fund spending for the budget year beginning July 1.

Employers currently spend between $100 billion to $150 billion per year, which could be available to help offset total costs, according to the analysis. Under that scenario, total new spending to implement the system would be between $50 billion and $100 billion per year.

“Health care spending is growing faster than the overall economy…yet we do not have better health outcomes and we cover fewer people,” Lara said at Monday’s appropriations hearing. “Given this picture of increasing costs, health care inefficiencies and the uncertainty created by Congress, it is critical that California chart our own path.”

The idea behind Senate Bill 562 is to overhaul California’s insurance marketplace, reduce overall health care costs and expand coverage to everyone in the state regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. Instead of private insurers, state government would be the “single payer” for everyone’s health care through a new payroll taxing structure, similar to the way Medicare operates.

Lara and Atkins say they are driven by the belief that health care is a human right and should be guaranteed to everyone similar to public services like safe roads and clean drinking water. They seek to rein in rising health care costs by lowering administrative expenses, reducing expensive emergency room visits and eliminating insurance company profits and executive salaries.

In addition to covering undocumented people illegal aliens, Lara said the goal is to expand health access to people who, even with insurance, may skip doctor visits or stretch out medications due to high co-pays and deductibles.  “Doctors and hospitals would no longer need to negotiate rates and deal with insurance companies to seek reimbursement,” Lara said.

Insurance groups, health plans and Kaiser Permanente are against the bill. Industry representatives say California should focus on improving the Affordable Care Act. Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce, have deemed the bill a “job-killer.”

“A single-payer system is massively, if not prohibitively expensive,” said Nick Louizos, vice president of legislative affairs for the California Association of Health Plans. “It will cost employers and taxpayers billions of dollars and result in significant loss of jobs in the state,” the Chamber of Commerce said in its opposition letter.

Underlying the debate is uncertainty at the federal level over what President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will do with Obamacare. The House Republican bill advanced earlier this month would dismantle it by removing its foundation – the individual mandate that requires everyone to have coverage or pay a tax penalty.

Republican-led efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare is fueling political support for the bill, Atkins said at a universal health care rally this past weekend in Sacramento hosted by the California Nurses Association, a co-sponsor.

“This is a high-ticket expense…We have to figure out how to cover everyone and work on addressing the costs in the long-term — that’s our challenge,” Atkins said. “I’m optimistic.”

The bill has to get approval on the Senate floor by June 2 to advance to the Assembly. A financing plan is underway, which could suggest diverting money employers pay for worker’s compensation insurance to a state-run coverage system.

Lara said he believes California can and should play a prominent role in improving people’s lives. “We can do better,” he said.

DCG

$21.8 million in ObamaCare tax credits awarded to individuals who were not eligible to receive them

shock

From Fox News: The Affordable Care Act exchanges awarded $21.8 million in advance premium tax credits to individuals who were not eligible to receive them, according to an audit from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Advance premium tax credits are awarded to those with low to moderate income to help rein in the cost of purchasing health care insurance on the exchanges.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is responsible for overseeing the Obamacare exchanges which should ensure that an individual who applies for the tax credit has his identity verified and that the individual is eligible to receive the payment.

Individuals are asked a number of questions regarding their personal information such as their address, telephone number, date of birth, and out-of-wallet questions to determine their identity. After this process, individuals can submit an application to see if they are eligible to receive benefits.

The audit found that the exchanges did not successfully verify the identity of 35,276 individuals, and these individuals received $112 million in advance premium tax credits. The report notes that the majority of these applications—99 percent—had no verification process performed on them, and 251 failed identity verification.

Click for more from The Washington Free Beacon.

DCG

ObamaCare fallout: As premiums rise, so does cost to taxpayers

Going as planned.

obamacare2

From Fox News: The Obama administration is trying to calm the panic over soaring ObamaCare premiums by pointing to subsidies many will receive to offset the cost — but analysts and GOP lawmakers counter that those subsidies nevertheless will stick taxpayers with a rising bill. 

With enrollment set to begin Nov. 1, the administration announced Monday that premiums are set rise an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market. Some states, such as Arizona, will see premiums jump by as much as 116 percent.

Department of Health and Human Services officials are stressing that subsidies provided under the law, which are designed to rise alongside premiums, will insulate most customers from sticker shock.

But the rising cost of subsidies, which already totals tens of billions a year, would be passed on to the taxpayer.

“Taxpayers are already in for a lot,” Tom Miller, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told FoxNews.com. “The cost doesn’t go away, it just goes into someone else’s pocket.”

In a March report, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that subsidies given to enrollees in 2016 would amount to $43 billion in 2016, and predicted the cost would rise to $106 billion by 2026. It also said that over 10 years, ObamaCare provisions would reduce the deficit thanks to tax provisions and cuts to Medicare. That was before the latest announcement by the administration. It’s unclear how exactly the looming premium hikes will affect that picture, though Republicans are now seeking new estimates.

Analysts say it’s safe to assume taxpayer costs will rise. Miller noted that HHS reported an average subsidy of $291 per month in 2016. A 25 percent increase in premiums would theoretically translate into an extra $73 per month, or about $870 a year per person.

you don't say

“If you assume conservatively that there’s 10 million people getting subsidies, that’s an extra $8.5 billion in extra costs taxpayers are getting hit by going into next year,” he said.

Other experts warned this is likely to continue as long as premiums keep rising. “Its real simple, premiums are going up and up, and subsidies are going to go up with them,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and a former CBO director, told FoxNews.com.

The Department for Health and Human Services, when asked for comment by FoxNews.com, noted that the law’s coverage provisions are set to cost 28 percent less in 2019 than the CBO originally projected, amounting to about $49 billion less than originally predicted when the law was signed in 2010. A spokesman also said the same office predicted that repealing the law would increase the deficit by approximately $350 billion over 10 years.

Holtz-Eakin urged caution on the administration’s analysis. “It’s been a mixed pattern, because the enrollments haven’t been what they expected so it hasn’t been as big of an impact financially,” he said. “The bad news is that spending per person is much higher than anticipated due to subsidy increases because of premium hikes.”

Obama signs Obamacare bill

One of the biggest ObamaCare costs to taxpayers has been absorbed into the Medicaid budget, paid for by both state and federal governments. As a sweetener to get states to go along with the plan, the federal government offered to pick up the cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility up to 133 percent of the poverty line. That siphoned low income — and expensive – customers away from ObamaCare exchanges, seemingly contributing to its current solvency. But that cost – in the hundreds of billions — also is borne by taxpayers.

The CBO projected in 2013 that, in part due to ObamaCare, federal Medicaid spending would more than double over the next 10 years, topping $554 billion by 2023. State governments pay another $160 billion toward Medicaid. “Volume has been greater in Medicaid, and per person costs have been much higher than expected,” Edmund Haislmaier, senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told FoxNews.com.

Sensing a spike in taxpayer costs, the Republican-led House Committee on Energy and Commerce has written to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services demanding how much taxpayer money will be spent subsidizing the cost of rising premiums.

“While the Administration continues to focus on premium ‘affordability,’ it ignores the undeniable fact that federal taxpayers are subsidizing these premium increases through tax credits,” the letter from Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., says. “The Committee is concerned that the federal taxpayer continues to bear the burden of subsidizing the growing cost of health care insurance.”

The committee is demanding estimates of the amount of money spent covering rising premiums by Nov. 7.

obamacare

DCG

Medicare’s funding well to dry up in 2030

titanic-sinking

Washington Examiner: The fund Medicare uses to pay hospitals will run out in the next 15 years, and experts say there are no easy answers to solve it.

The independent Board of Trustees for Medicare found the trust fund used for Medicare payments to hospitals would become insolvent in 2030 unless something is done. The board issued its annual report to Congress on the entitlement program’s finances on Wednesday.

As in prior years, the trustees found that the fund isn’t properly financed over the next decade. Last year’s report also pegged 2030 as the date the fund will become insolvent.

However, the fund could run dry as early as 2022 if spending is higher than estimated, the report said.

The fund covers hospital insurance benefits. It doesn’t affect Medicare Part B, which covers payments to physicians, or Medicare Part C, which is commonly known as Medicare Advantage.

The verdict is still out on how to solve the problem, said Juliette Cubanski, associate director of Medicare policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation. One answer to increase funding is to raise payroll taxes, she said.

The insolvency of the trust fund basically means Medicare payments will be higher than the money coming in, “which is basically the payroll tax for Part A,” she said.  But raising taxes is not the “easiest thing to do in the current political environment,” Cubanski conceded.

The report exuded a sense of urgency for Congress and the Obama administration to get together and find a solution. “The sooner solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be,” the trustees said.

Whether that can happen is another story. After the report was released, some Republicans blamed Obamacare for the problem. “Rather than ignoring the problem and raiding Medicare to pay for the president’s health care law, we need a willing partner in Washington to take thoughtful and prompt steps forward in strengthening the program,” said a statement from Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Joe Pitts, R-Pa. Upton is head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Pitts leads the panel’s health subcommittee.

Blame the republicans...

Blame the republicans…

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., countered that it is Republicans who have contributed to the problem. “Instead of trying relentlessly and irresponsibly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans should work with Democrats to make sure that Medicare is protected for the next generation,” said the House minority whip.

But some lawmakers pointed to the year’s biggest bipartisan success as evidence that they can find a solution. The two parties permanently repealed an unsustainable Medicare payment formula for physicians and reauthorized a children’s insurance program.

“Reforming the way Medicare pays local doctors has had positive effects for our nation’s seniors, providers and the program itself,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s health subcommittee. “Now we must take the next step and pursue other important payment system reforms.”

DCG