When President Johnson signed Medicare into law on June 30, 1965, he said: "If it has a few defects, I am confident those can be quickly remedied." Quickly is a relative term… but more than fifty years later, more than a few defects remain.
The death knell and possibility for Medicare going broke and its sister program, Medicaid, has been sounded regularly for decades by politicians, government entities, and special interest groups alike. Their claims that Medicare is headed for bankruptcy are largely overblown, but they’re not entirely without merit: Healthcare spending overall has decreased in recent years, but in 2014 Medicare spent over $613 billion to cover care for 54 million beneficiaries. Projections of Medicare costs are highly uncertain, especially when looking out more than several decades, so it’s likely that the program will continue to eat up an ever greater portion of the federal budget and the economy.
Even more concerning may be the structural flaws leading the program to misallocate and misuse funds. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that $60 billion (10 percent of Medicare's budget) was lost to waste, fraud, abuse or improper payments in 2014.
Beyond that misspent 10 percent, however, what’s plaguing the Medicare program moving forward? What forces will have the greatest impact on Medicare’s solvency in 2016 and beyond? For any healthcare group, revenue cycle management entity, medical billing company, or Medicare-covered patient interested in the future of the program, these are the top issues to keep an eye on.