The Medicare Death Spiral


The L.A. Times notes that only 3.6 million seniors have signed up for the botched Medicare prescription drug program on their own. (The remaining millions were automatically transferred from state Medicaid rolls or already had coverage through Medicare.) The same article points to this Kaiser Family Foundation study, which reminds us that unless healthy seniors sign up in droves, the program risks becoming even more useless than it has been thus far. Behold the Medicare death spiral: If few healthy seniors sign up, premiums will jump. If premiums jump, fewer healthy seniors will sign up. And so on.

It would be nice to think that at this point we could all give up, admit that the benefit was a uniquely terrible idea from its inception, and dull the pain of millions wasted with some cheap Canadian percocet. Instead, legislators are pushing for an extension to the May 15 sign-up deadline and begging seniors to jump onboard, desperate to unload slices of a billion-dollar giveaway no one much wants. Look for more bright ideas from this camp during tomorrow's State of the Union Address.

Reason commentary on Medicare Part D here and here.