The Washington Post long ago ended the separation of its news and editorial departments, therefore it was not surprising to see the page three article complaining that "experts" are worried that the rhetoric of the presidential campaign will make it harder to find a "solution" for Medicare. As is standard practice, the Post's corral of experts were exclusively people who largely agree with its editorial position on Medicare: that there have to be large cuts to the program.
The three people presented as experts in the piece are Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Peter Peterson funded Concord Coalition, Steve Bell, economic policy director at the Peter Peterson funded Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Republican congressional staffer, Dougas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and the top economic advisor to John McCain in his 2008 campaign. All three present views of Medicare and budget deficits that are very similar to the views expressed in the Post editorials.
It would have been easy to find experts presenting a broader range of views if the Post had wanted to write this piece as a real news story. For example, they could have spoken to Henry Aaron at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on health care policy for decades. Or, they could have talked to M.I.T. economist Jon Gruber who played a central role in designing both Governor Romney's health care plan for Massachusetts and President Obama's health care plan.
A broader group of experts could have explained to readers that most of Medicare's projected shortfall has already been eliminated by the cost control measures that President Obama put in place in the Affordable Care Act. The projected shortfall over 75 years fell from 3.88 percent of taxable payroll in the 2009 Medicare Trustees Report to 1.35 percent of taxable payroll in the 2012 Medicare Trustees Report. The experts the Post relied upon apparently neglected to mention the sharp reduction in the projected deficit as a result of President Obama's policies.
A broader group of experts might also have reminded Post readers that the underlying problem is not the cost of Medicare but rather the cost of health care more generally in the United States. If we paid the same amount per person as people in any other wealthy country, there would be no Medicare problem whatsoever and the long-term projections would show huge surpluses rather than deficits. Readers of an article that purports to give the view of experts should know this information.
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