Q. Medicare will be cut by billions of dollars under health care reform, so why do people say the law will keep Medicare afloat longer? Did they flunk math?
According to Medicare's latest financial report card, released this month, the new law extends the financial soundness of the program by 12 years, to 2029. The annual report, produced by the program's trustees, explains how Medicare can afford to offer benefits longer and produce savings at the same time.
First, the cuts you mention are not cuts in guaranteed benefits or eligibility. No one will lose Medicare coverage. The program isn't shrinking—just the opposite. Medicare spent $509 billion in 2009 and is expected to spend $895 billion by 2019. Enrollment is expected to grow from 47 million beneficiaries to 62 million during that decade. Health care reform even adds some new benefits to Medicare, including free preventive health care, and closes the doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage.