Every year The Board of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplemental Medical Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Funds makes an actuarial guess as to the future financial solvency of Medicare. The reportcreates an annual news frenzy in the workers' compensation community since Medicare is both the safety net for injured workers and playground for employers and their insurance companies to use in cost shifting,
The annual report retains the common theme that Medicare is soon going to be totally depleted. The specific date changes from year to year but the plot is the same. Medicare is going to be exhausted. The blame predominately falls on the fact that going forward there will be a lack of contributions to support the onslaught of baby boomers retiring. As Robert J.Gordon points ou in his book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War, lower wages and fewer hours worked by American workers pose the most critical factors as to why the Medicare system is going dry.
This drama plays out every year assuring the stakeholders that the Medicare system will be solvent for a while longer. In reality, the long-term storyline is the same. The system is going to collapse in the years ahead if the train stays on course. Annually it is reported that baby boomers will luckily make it to the station first and get their monumental last year of terminal medical costs covered. For others, including the Millennials (who only read 140 character tweets, ie. “Medicare works,”) the news is quite the opposite,
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) declaredlast week that, "The next step is single-payer' health care." Recent polling leans strongly in that direction as the nation moves down "The Path to Federalization."
Compounding the scenario is the reality that increased medical costs in the US are not yielding better outcomes. Therefore perpetuating the present medical delivery system is not a positive approach.
So the "real news" in the workers' compensation world is not really the interpretation of unreported /unpublished case decisions, that so not constitute precedent or are binding upon any court). The real news is whether either Medicare or Workers' Compensation will win the race to the bottom. The future is not insolvency. The future is what will be the replacement and whether a new administratively run single-payer system is, in reality, the only program on the horizon.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jon L. Gelman is nationally recognized as an author, lecturer and skilled trial attorney in the field of workers' compensation law and occupational/environmental disease litigation. Over a career spanning more than four decades, he has been involved in complex litigation involving thousands of clients challenging the mega-industries of asbestos, tobacco, lead paint and burn pits. He is the author of the 3-volume treatise entitled Workers' Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise of Modern Workers' Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters).
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