July 30 Marks the 50th Anniversary of Medicare
Unfortunately for All Too Many, the Program Fails to Live up to Its Promise
Medicare Often Denies The "Healing Miracle of Modern Medicine" to Seniors
Medicare Constantly Interferes in the Doctor-Patient Relationship
Washington, D.C. - "A week from today, Medicare will mark its 50th anniversary," says Dr. David Hogberg, senior fellow and health care policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Unfortunately, a historical analysis of what was intended half a century ago and what we now have shows Medicare falls way short of expectations. In fact, there's no reason to sugar coat what is the largest U.S. government health care program we have in place today. Medicare is a sick program that often fails to meet its promises... not only to patients, but to the healers as well."
To demonstrate his point, Dr. Hogberg has compiled many heartwrenching stories of Medicare patients who have suffered because of Medicare's policies in both his new book, "Medicare's Victims: How the U.S. Government's Largest Health Care Program Harms Patients and Impairs Physicians," and the recent cover story in the Washington Examiner, "Medicare's Midlife Crisis: Catastrophic Finances Pit Doctors against Patients."
Hogberg reminds us that when President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law on July 30, 1965, he claimed that, "No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine."
"Regrettably, Medicare falls far short of living up to that promise," says Dr. Hogberg. "As just one example, consider Frank Alfisi, who I profile in my book. He suffered from kidney failure and was unable to get dialysis in a timely fashion because of Medicare's rules regarding hospital admissions. Because of these delays, he ultimately ended up in a wheelchair, needing portable oxygen, and lost much of his sight as a result. He died in the hospital about two months later."
When Medicare became law in 1965, Hogberg reports, the first part of the legislation was titled, "Prohibition Against Any Federal Interference." It states, "Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize any Federal office or employee to exercise any supervision or control over the practice of medicine," a very clear and explicit promise that Medicare would not interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
In his Examiner article, Hogberg demonstrated this point by referencing an interview he did with Dr. Eric Novack, an orthopedic surgeon who lamented about how Medicare treated one of his elderly patients. She had come to him for a broken ankle and needed rehab in a skilled nursing facility because she was frail and lived alone. Her surgery was fairly simple, but rather than allowing her to go directly to the nursing facility, Medicare rules required her to stay in the hospital for three days. If she refused, Medicare would force her to foot the bill herself. "This only added to her health risks," Dr. Novack stated. "I like to tell patients that hospitals are full of sick people, and if you don't have to be around them, you shouldn't be. The longer you are in the hospital, the more likely you are to have other issues."
"The Medicare system that we have in place today is not what President Johnson had envisioned. It's a sick program and one that needs to be seriously revamped," Dr. Hogberg laments.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here.
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