Today's announcement that the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund will remain solvent until 2020 is good news. Slightly lower spending and higher payroll tax revenues pushed the projected solvency date one year later than the Trustees' estimated last year.
Although the news about Medicare is positive, health care in America remains grossly inefficient. If we don't attack problems in our nation's health care system as a whole, rapid and difficult to predict cost increases will put further strains on the system and on Medicare's trust funds. We can make health-care much better—and constrain costs in the long run.
From achieving the efficiencies and savings that information technology can deliver to reducing medical errors that lead to hospitalizations and deaths, there are many ways of transforming health care.
Most medical records are still kept on paper and mailed or faxed. This is painfully slow and costly. So are prescriptions, which would be more accurate, faster, and cheaper if they were "e-prescribed," as is now called for in the new Medicare law.
We must also promote health and healthy behavior from infancy onward. There are some things we can't do much about, such as genetics and accidents. But we can affect the majority of our health outcomes, and we need to take personal responsibility for our health and the health of our children and grandchildren.
The largest increase in chronic diseases is among people in their 30s, including obesity and diabetes. In nearly all cases, these problems are caused by eating too much and exercising too little.
We need more focus on chronic care management. Chronic conditions are more and more common, yet our health care tends toward acute and episodic care, an expensive misallocation of resources.
We also need to control health care costs and especially bring down the high cost of prescription drugs, an effort AARP is championing for our members and their families.