Reality Check: Did serious Medicare reform just miss its chance?

By Ben Swann email | bio

Chances are the discussion of Medicare will be everywhere you turn this upcoming political season.  But depending on how serious lawmakers are about fixing the problem, real solutions may have just disappeared from the national debate.

First, here's what happened Tuesday.  Democrat Kathy Hochul won a special election in New York's 26th Congressional District.  The seat was up for grabs after the Republican Congressman resigned.

Hochul is a Democrat and she won the seat in a district that has been held by a Republican for 4 decades.

Hochul's Republican opponent embraced Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, which would replace Medicare with an annual government subsidy of up to $15,000 per person. Any one currently 55 and over would not be effected.

The entire strategy by the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul was to align her opponent with Paul Ryan's plan.  Which means that Republicans may now run from this issue and democrats will use it like a hammer.

But for all the politics surrounding this issue, lets not forget there is a massive crisis looming when it comes to Medicare.

On May 13, a new annual report on the finances of Medicare's Hospital Insurance Fund show that it will be insolvent by 2024.  That is 5 years earlier than had ever been previously projected.

Joseph Antos, with the American Enterprise Institute's Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health-care and Retirement Policy; says that Medicare costs are "outstripping the ability of taxpayers to cover it,"

Because Medicare has been funded by the interest on the trust funds' holdings since 2008, the programs are "already in the hole living on borrowed time," says Antos.  That borrowed time runs out in 13 years.

Here's what you need to know.

Chances are, from now until November of 2012 all Democrats are going to want to talk about is how Republicans want to steal grandma's Medicare.

Chances are, if Republicans get nervous, they might want to talk about anything else.

If that happens, it means both sides go back to refusing to put forward serious solutions for our Medicare crisis.

But this is not an issue we can avoid.  As Gregg Bloche, a physician and law professor at Georgetown University, says,  if we do nothing about this looming medicare crisis,  "the costs of medical care will consume us."

And that is Reality Check.

Copyright 2011 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.