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Brady Opening Statement: Hearing on the 2013 Medicare Trustees Report

June 20, 2013

We are meeting today to hear from the two public members of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds on their 2013 report’s analysis regarding the current dire status of the Medicare program.
It’s important to understand the financial health and viability of the Medicare program if we are to ensure that the program is solvent and available to our immediate seniors as well as future generations of Americans.
Author George R.R. Martin wrote, “Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.”  I worry that when it comes to Medicare, that’s true for too many in Washington today.
If Medicare is “just fine” as some claim, then why did the Medicare trustees issue a “Medicare Funding Warning” for the seventh straight year?
If there’s no problem that needs action now, then why have the assets in the Trust Fund shrunk by 15 percent from the projections made just five years ago?  
And if sincere concerns about Medicare’s financial condition are summarily dismissed as “alarmist rhetoric” by some members of Congress, then why can’t Medicare pay its medical bills for seniors in just 13 short years?
Today, no Member of Congress can honestly look a 52 year old American in the eye and assure them that Medicare will be there for them when they retire because the trustees report has just confirmed it. That’s not “just fine.”
For those who continue to stick their head in the sand, where hope is the denial of reality, and who shirk from their responsibility to act to save Medicare now, here is yet another wakeup call: The 2013 Trustees Report continues to make it abundantly clear that Medicare’s financial future is in trouble.
Americans all over the country and across generations are paying into a program that we as a Congress cannot promise they will receive benefits for.  But if we simply face reality and come together we can act now – this year – to take the first real steps to make sure our citizens receive the medical care they deserve and have paid into when they most need it.
If you somehow think a couple of years of reduced health care spending within a recession solves the problem, do the math.
The number of people in Medicare doubled over the last 35 years, and it’s going to double in size again. And no one credible has proven that reduced health care spending will last – even the Medicare trustees didn’t attempt to make that claim.  
They are not alone. The independent actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services again published an “Alternative Scenario.”  In their full scenario they assume that Congress will prevent scheduled cuts in physician and provider payments and repeal the heavy-handed Independent Payment Advisory Board causing Medicare spending as a percentage of our economy to skyrocket.
The Trustees Report and the Alternative Scenario reinforce the need for prompt attention to Medicare’s severe financial problems.
As we will hear from our witnesses, we should continue to push that now is the time to act, as the sooner we make changes to better the program’s structure, the less drastic those changes will have to be.

My hope is that this hearing will help my colleagues on both sides of the aisle continue to understand the extent of the financial problem that pushes us to work towards bipartisan, commonsense solutions.  
We cannot wish this problem away.  Medicare is going broke too quickly, and no amount of positioning for political gain is going to change that fact.
The Medicare Board of Trustees urge Congress to take “prompt legislative action” and recognize that the projections in this year’s report “continue to demonstrate the need for timely and effective action to address Medicare’s remaining financial challenges.”
If the Trustees don’t view the two added years of solvency as a significant reprieve, then why should Congress or the White House?  
Our witnesses here today will further explain to us the extent of Medicare’s financial difficulties as we work to deliver on this responsibility.  
Medicare is important. It’s in trouble. Common sense dictates that we act now.