David Brooks’ Jan. 10 commentary made a powerful case that future Medicare growth will overwhelm the U.S. budget, leaving little room for other spending, e.g. military and low-income programs. While Medicare costs are clearly growing at an unsustainable rate, recent campaign rhetoric suggests our elected officials have a simplistic view (we seniors live longer and there are going to be more of us) and avoid tackling the problem.
One factor is modern technology; new and effective treatments for many age-related ailments are coming out at a breathtaking pace. An example: The first effective treatment for macular degeneration (a leading cause of vision loss in elderly Americans), costs Medicare many thousands of dollars annually per patient. The number of seniors receiving this therapy is approaching 500,000. Stunning progress in treating many cancers is a second example, prolonging lives. Numerous other costly new therapies add to a mounting financial crescendo.
A senior, I feel fortunate to live today and in this country, but I worry about my children and theirs. If not the top issue facing 21st century America, finding a means to maintain effective health care for all while managing costs must be among the top two or three.