As one of an estimated 78 million baby boomers in this country, I was delighted to hear that Medicare’s Hospital Trust Fund won’t run out of money until 2030 — 13 years later than projected in 2009, the year before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act.
While it’s uncertain how much of that good news can be attributed to the health care law, some of the provisions aimed at slowing Medicare spending, such as requiring Medicare to reduce payments to hospitals with high readmission rates, are likely helping.
But the Hospital Trust Fund accounts for only about half of total Medicare spending. Most of the rest goes to cover physician fees, prescription drugs and to provide incentives for health insurance companies to participate in the Medicare Advantage program and administer the Medicare drug program.
The Affordable Care Act could have done much more than it does to curb spending in those areas. Because it doesn’t is a testament to the power and influence of the lobbyists who represent doctors, pharmaceutical companies and health insurers.
Some lawmakers, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wanted to include language in the law that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies. That’s something that has long been a policy priority for patient and consumer advocates. But drug companies and their lobbyists are far more powerful and have far more money to spend to influence elections than any patient advocacy group could ever hope to have.