Friday, February 10, 2012

Presidential Updates on Contraceptives, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

That was quick. Contraceptives Compromise Set Forth says this:

"President Barack Obama, hoping to quell an intensifying political backlash, on Friday announced a new policy that no longer requires a broad swath of religious organizations to provide employees with contraception coverage in health-insurance plans.

Under the new policy, insurance companies will be required to offer free contraception for these workers, a subtle shift aimed at moving the onus from the employer to the insurer.

Catholic leaders had objected to the requirement, which exempted churches but not hospitals, charities and universities with religious affiliations. . . .

The policy will allow religious employers to opt out of the coverage mandate. If they do so, the employer's insurance company will be required to offer contraception for free in a separate arrangement with workers who want it. . . .

Women will still get free birth control—without co-pays or deductibles—even if they work at these religious institutions. That mandate stems from the Obama health-care law, which requires free preventive care. The Institute of Medicine recommended that contraception be included on the list of covered services.

The change is an effort to satisfy two constituencies—Catholics and women's advocacy groups—over what has become an explosive political issue. In recent days, the controversy showed no signs of abating, with congressional Republicans threatening legislation, GOP presidential candidates slamming the White House for what they called an assault on religious liberty and some Democrats voicing concern. Catholic priests and bishops had railed against the policy in Sunday Masses."

Of course, President Obama changed his mind for one simple reason. He is running for re-election in 2012, so he wants to get the Catholics settled down. He also needs to keep the women's advocacy groups placated. And here's how he'll do that.

He'll just indirectly charge the taxpayers more for the "free" insurance. They'll never notice. They never do when "free lunches" are served by government.

Then ObamaCare will go on uninterrupted, and the President can keep giving freebies away. Voters love freebies, even though they aren't free.

But regarding the much larger issues concerning unaffordable entitlement spending, he'll not propose doing anything anytime soon. Instead he'll wait at least until after the election results, and longer if possible.

Besides, he won't want to upset the elderly before they vote in November. The old folks are concerned about keeping their full entitlements intact, including such things as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Politics sucks.

Budget Ducks Big Benefit Cuts confirms President Obama's budget will not attack the issue of entitlements:

"President Barack Obama's budget proposal Monday will offer several measures to trim the federal deficit in the next 10 years. But it would leave largely unchanged the biggest drivers of future government spending: the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs that are expanding rapidly as the baby boom turns into a senior boom.

Calling for major changes in the popular programs would be politically treacherous in an election year because of fierce opposition from seniors, who vote in large numbers. But budget experts of both parties agree the programs' growth must be curbed at some point or they will swamp the budget.

In 2011, the U.S. government spent $1.56 trillion on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits—more than $4 billion a day—accounting for 43% of all federal spending. In 2022, if no changes are made, the government will spend just under $3 trillion on these programs, or 54% of the expected federal budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Covering these costs would require large increases in taxes or government borrowing, or cuts in other programs. Reducing these costs would mean benefit cuts. . . .

The math is inescapable as the nation's 77 million baby boomers grow older and health-care costs rise. Last year, 2.8 million Americans born in 1946—the leading edge of the boom—turned 65 and qualified for Medicare, joining roughly 47 million beneficiaries already in the program, according to census data. This year, as members of that group turn 66, they will qualify for full Social Security retirement benefits. Close to 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, according to different estimates.SENIORS

Meantime, health-care costs are growing faster than inflation or the economy, and people are living longer.

"You can't fight the demographics," said Erskine Bowles, the Clinton administration chief of staff who co-headed the White House's 2010 panel on deficit reduction, in an interview. "Not only is the number of people eligible using Medicare and Medicaid going up, the cost of the programs is growing at a rate that's simply not sustainable."

Medicare is the government-run health program for seniors and the disabled. Medicaid is generally used by low-income Americans, but a growing share of Medicaid dollars is going to nursing-home care for seniors."

Both political parties will avoid dealing with these issues in any serious way during the presidential campaign. Yet both will spend enormous sums of money seeking votes, running ads, rallying their base and disparaging their opponents.

Nevertheless, paying for entitlements with across-the-board tax hikes or reducing benefits will not be an issue for real debate, even though higher taxes on the thousandaires, millionaires and billionaires as defined from time to time won't come anywhere close to paying for the costs of all these underfunded promises.

And the elderly know or at least should know that's the case, along with all other citizens and voters of both parties. Even the candidates running for office know what they won't talk about--the choices involved to solve the most dangerous long term financing issue concerning entitlements.

You see, the so-called "99%" don't like the thought of paying higher taxes, and the "1%" don't have enough money to pay for the already promised entitlements all by themselves.

But not to worry. The politicians have an answer at the ready.

We'll borrow the money from the Chinese. Forever if possible, and if that's not possible, how about this political timeframe?

At least until after the election.

Then the politicians may decide to get serious. But only if forced to do so.

And if the politicians are able to keep putting all this hard stuff off until they're out of office, the next group of political "leaders" will have to deal with these difficult issues.

Let's all hope we're not around when this thing finally implodes.

Because if we are, our kids and grandkids are really going to be upset with us.

Thanks. Bob.

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