Controlling Medicare costs remains politically difficult

The Medicare program is fiscally unsustainable for the long-term, but given the program is the political "third rail," making substantive fiscal changes to Medicare will be extremely challenging, concludes to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity.

"With its one-two punch of rising healthcare costs and more seniors to cover, Medicare will eat up more and more of the federal budget in the years ahead," according the report. However, "when either Democrats or Republicans try to suggest ways to trim the costs, they're accused of trying to push Grandma down the stairs in her wheelchair."

The report noted that the American public has been shielded from the actual costs of running Medicare since its inception in the mid-1960s. The Medicare trustees warned last year the program is facing unfunded liabilities as high as $36 trillion in the coming years.

Driving these expanding costs is the aging of the population: as many as 79 million Americans will be enrolled in Medicare by 2030, nearly twice as many people as enrolled today.

Moreover, the Center for Public Integrity noted that the healthcare industry expends as much as $800 billion a year on care that does not improve anyone's health. Based on its share of healthcare expenditure, Medicare would be spending about $40 billion a year on ineffective care.

For more:
- read the Center for Public Integrity report
- read the Kaiser Health News article