1. McCain Calls Social Security Funding a Disgrace. Asked by a young woman in Portsmouth, Ohio if she would ever receive Social Security benefits, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said it was unlikely "unless we fix it."
In an unusually harsh assessment of the viability of the retirement program, Senator McCain criticized the continued use of Social Security surpluses for non-Social Security purposes. "It's an absolute disgrace," he said.
Senator McCain was immediately blasted by an array of liberals who defended the use of Social Security surpluses for non-Social Security purposes.
At the end of May 2008, the Social Security Trust Fund held $2.297 trillion in IOUs, which were used to finance the general operations of the federal government. By 2017, when Social Security stops running surpluses, the amount owed the Trust Fund could be as much as $4.971 Trillion.
Meanwhile, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) proposed raising payroll taxes to address the projected shortfalls in Social Security. The Associated Press reported that his plan was greeted with skepticism, even from some in his own party.
2. Medicare Fraud. In a new report, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) said that Medicare improperly paid about $700 million for medical equipment supplies from 2005 to 2006 due to mistakes, fraud, or abuse. This amounted to around 7.5% of the total payments for medical equipment.
Some of the fraud was from companies that supplied wheelchairs and oxygen equipment and used Medicare ID numbers of 1,500 deceased physicians. One doctor's number was used 484 times from 2003 to 2006, even though he died in 1999.
Michael Reinemer, a spokesman for the American Association for Homecare, told USA Today, said, "Medicare has done a terrible job of keeping criminals out of the system."
In 2007 alone, there were improper payments of $10.8 billion in the fee-for-service portion of Medicare. This represented almost a 50% reduction in fraud from the $20 billion that was identified in 2004.
There were no audits of the $75.1 billion Medicare Advantage segment or the $49.3 billion prescription drug program.
In total, federal agencies reported improper payments of $55 billion in 2007, an increase from $41 billion in 2006. However, Medicaid had previously never been audited and the new report found $12.9 billion in fraud last year, thereby accounting for the government-wide increase.
3. Medicare Payments to Doctors vs. Medicare Advantage Program. A bill to prevent a previously scheduled 10.6% cut in Medicare payments to doctors from taking effect passed the Senate 69-30 and the House 359-55 but will likely be vetoed by President Bush.
Opponents of the bill object to paying for the restored payments to doctors by trimming funding for Medicare Advantage, a program administered by private insurance companies, which covers about 20% of seniors.
If the President vetoes the bill, it would require 67 senators and 292 congressmen to override.
The President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Nancy Nielsen, warned, "We stand at the brink of a Medicare meltdown," because doctors would be forced to reduce service to Medicare patients if the cuts go become effective.