ABC Highlights 'Anything but Helpful' Government Healthcare 'Mess'

     Grandma may be calling but the government program isn’t answering.


     ABC’s “Good Morning America” exposed many problems with Medicare’s hotline number 1-800-MEDICARE, including telephone operators “who couldn’t answer the [questions],” “gave out the wrong information” or were completely unreachable.


     The onscreen caption for the September 11 ABC report read “Investigation Exposes Health Care Mess.” The morning broadcast didn’t disappoint, pointing to a Senate committee investigation that had staffers call the Medicare hotline more than 500 times.


     “Many seniors looking for answers to their questions often turn to help lines that can be anything but helpful,” co-host Chris Cuomo teased to introduce Yunji de Nies’ report.  


     Even though “Good Morning America” seems to have taken a recent interest in the glaring problems at the government-backed program, experts have been making the point for years.


     J.D. Foster, Ph.D., the Norman B. Ture Senior Fellow in the Economics of Fiscal Policy at The Heritage Foundation, encouraged readers September 2 to look at Medicare as if it were a business saying, “taking a step back to view Medicare as a health insurance company simplifies the essentials of the matter.”


     Being a healthcare provider is already difficult when your client base is made up of mostly seniors. But for Medicare the difficulties are even worse because it is a government agency and needs to operate in the midst of “repeated changes in executive management, cumbersome government procure­ment and management rules and the vagaries of congressional oversight.”


     In a speech April 29, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt spoke at a Medicare forum at the Newseum saying, “Time is running out. Medicare is drifting towards disaster.”

     Leavitt said that the real problems will begin between now and 2019 when the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund is projected to become “insolvent,” because there is no backup plan to ensure hospitals keep getting paid after that.

     In 2005, The Heritage Foundation listed Medicare funding as one of their top 10 examples of government waste.


     “Medicare wastes more money than any other federal program, yet its strong public support leaves lawmakers hesitant to address program effi­ciencies,” said a Heritage policy paper written April 4, 2005 by Brian M. Riedl.


     According to Riedl, Medicare paid as much as eight times what other federal agencies paid for the same drugs and medical supplies back then. After a study was conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) comparing 16 types of medical equipment and supplies used by both Medicare and the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care program, it was found that Medicare paid an average of more than double what the VA paid for the same items.


     Saline solution was one example: Medicare paid $8.26 per liter. VA paid just $1.02.