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EDITORIAL : GRAVELY ILL PATIENT MEDICARE GROWS SICKER BY THE MINUTE, BUT CLINTON AND CONGRESS REFUSE TO OFFER.

Apparently Medicare will have to go into cardiac arrest before the president and Congress decide to save the patient.

Certainly, neither side offered any substantial changes to Medicare under the recent balanced-budget agreement. The proposed budget would simply squeeze payments to hospitals, nursing homes and other Medicare health-care providers in order to save $115 billion over five years.

While cutting the payments to doctors and hospitals will slow the growth of Medicare spending for a few years, it will do little to slow the program's spending over the long run because it does nothing to encourage efficiency.

That means a crisis is looming in about 10 years. While the details over the budget must still be worked out, little evidence exists to suggest a Republican-controlled Congress will force changes with substance.

Unfortunately, no one is pushing proposals pitched earlier this year by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, to allow the elderly to pick their own managed-care plans, which would mean significant savings for a long time.

But the squeamishness of Clinton and Republicans to tackle the problem now makes it all the harder to deal with the issue in a reasonable manner four years from now.

Until the public puts pressure on a weak-kneed Clinton and an anemic Congress to provide real reform, Medicare will languish unattended.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 13, 1997
Words:219
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