NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medicare Commission Didn't Take Into Account Future Medical Advances

March 28, 2001

The National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare's gloomy prediction that Medicare will be broke by the time baby boomers reach old age is being faulted for not taking medical advances into account. Critics claim that scientists, not politicians, will "save Medicare."

Here are a few prospective medical breakthroughs that might rescue Medicare financially:

  • Studies confirm that estrogen replacement therapy for 10 years following menopause can significantly reduce osteoporosis risk at a cost of less than $3,000, versus $41,000 for a fractured hip -- and drugs now in the pipeline can even reverse osteoporosis among patients who already have it.
  • Eventual Food and Drug Administration approval of an insulin inhaler for diabetics will make needle injections a thing of the past and widen treatment -- thus avoiding the costs of treating a range of diabetes-associated maladies, such as heart disease, stroke, blindness and lower-limb amputations.
  • New statin drugs, such as Lipitor, can protect elderly patients from developing heart disease, which -- if patients were to survive an extra five years without it -- could save the health-care system an estimated $69 billion a year out of an annual Medicare budget of $235 billion.
  • Anticoagulants which prevent and even reverse stroke damage may cost over $1,000 a year -- but are a bargain when compared to the $100,000 lifetime cost of a severe stroke.

Medicare's records demonstrate that a person who lives to age 100 spends only one-third as much on health care during the last two years of life as someone who dies in his 60s or 70s. So even longevity isn't a budget-buster.

Source: Betsy McCaughey (Hudson Institute), "It Won't Go Broke: Tax Cuts Pose No Threat to Medicare, Thanks to Science," Investor's Business Daily, March 28, 2001.


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