On Wednesday, Nov. 13th, educational public policy organization Free the Facts visited Villanova’s campus to host a presentation and discussion about Medicare. The event was co-sponsored by the Villanova College Democrats, the Villanova College Republicans and the Student Government Association.
Free the Facts is a non-profit organization that provides young Americans—ages 18 to 35—with reliable information about the economic and fiscal policies, programs and challenges that will impact their lives. Based out of Washington, D.C., Free the Facts spends each fall and spring visiting college campuses across the country to present on various policy issues, igniting meaningful discussion and debate over some of the key challenges that our country faces.
The Medicare discussion was presented by Dr. Lindsay Hayes and Dr. Julius Chen. Dr. Hayes currently serves as the President and CEO of Free the Facts, and previously worked as a speechwriter for a cabinet-level agency as well as on two presidential campaigns. Dr. Chen is a health economist and assistant professor at Columbia University and serves a policy advisor for Free the Facts. Together, the two led a 30-minute presentation on Medicare, explaining how health care functions in the U.S., providing a breakdown of Medicare’s structure and finally identifying the challenges that the system faces. They also explained how these issues will impact younger generations of Americans.
First, Free the Facts established context for the various forms of health insurance in the U.S. They discussed how payments for private insurance work, covering monthly payments, annual deductibles and co-pay requirements. Next, they established the populations that Medicare and Medicaid cover, finally unveiling that 27% of Americans are left without any form of health care. The best way to provide care for this population, Dr. Hayes pointed out, is what politicians and citizens alike debate over.
Honing in on Medicare, the national health insurance program that covers those who are 65 or older, Free the Facts broke down the four components of Medicare and what they are set to specifically achieve. They explained that Part A covers hospital visits and impatient services. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient care. Part C is known as Medicare Advantage and provides all the program’s benefits through a private insurance plan. Finally, Part D covers all prescription drugs.
Dr. Hayes went on to explain that each component is paid for differently—parts B C and D are partially financed by the premiums that seniors pay to enroll in Medicare, while part A is primarily funded by the payroll tax. As Part A is financed by the working population rather than those receiving the benefits, this aspect of Medicare holds a close connection to young Americans. Free the Facts focused in on Part A, examining the challenges that it currently faces.
The first challenge that the presenters noted is related to demographics. Each day 10,000 baby boomers retire, creating an ever-expanding aging population that relies on Medicare benefits wand contributing to a shrinking working population, attributed to the decrease in U.S. birth rates. This unequal ratio becomes a problem for Part A, which is financed by the taxes that workers pay.
The next challenge Free the Facts identified is the nature of the program. Every working American pays a 1.45% payroll tax to pay for the Part A of Medicare,.However, the benefits that recipients have access to are unlimited. This creates an uneven balance. Ultimately, the program is not structured in a way to account for the unlimited and expensive care that recipients are afforded.
Finally, Free the Facts explained that the growing funding gap between tax revenue and government spending contribute to the funding issues that the program currently faces. As the government deficit continues to grow, more stress is put onto the federal budget’s mandatory spending components.
After the presentation, Dr. Hayes and Dr. Chen answered questions from the engaged student audience. From explaining the healthcare plans presented by current presidential candidates, to discussing the pros and cons of different health insurance systems around the world, the presenters shared their expertise with eager students of diverse academic backgrounds. The engaging question-answer period illuminates one of Free the Facts’ primary goals: to connect today’s experts with tomorrow’s leaders.
Free the Facts’ Medicare event broke down a complex issue into simple categories, highlighting the key areas of concern surrounding the future of the program and our generation’s responsibility as taxpayers. Attendees ultimately left the room with a greater understanding of a critical policy issue, now equipped to meaningfully participate in the national debate over our country’s healthcare system and future policy solutions.