Trump vs. Medicare

Should You Be Afraid of Huge Medicare Changes Under President Trump?

You've probably seen headlines warning that Republicans want to radically change Medicare. Potentially alarming words like "privatization" have been thrown around. Should you be afraid of major changes to Medicare now that President Trump is in the White House?

What's being proposed

The most talked about GOP proposal to change Medicare is House Speaker Paul Ryan's "A Better Way" plan. A key part of this plan is to roll back all of the Obamacare provisions related to Medicare. That effort is already under way.

One change sought by Ryan and other House Republicans include combining Medi-care Parts A and B and gradually increasing the Medicare retirement age from 65 to ... Social Security's full retirement age. Combining Medicare Parts A and B would give retirees a single deductible instead of having separate deductibles for hospital stays and physician visits. Increasing the Medicare retirement age would save money and put the two major federal entitlement programs in sync regarding when benefits begin for retirees.

What Trump wants

While Paul Ryan and some GOP members of Congress are promoting sweeping changes to Medicare, President Trump seems to have a much different view. During the presidential campaign, he promised supporters that he would leave entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare alone. President Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, emphasized recently that the new president will keep his word and not "meddle with Medicare." Even Paul Ryan stated that he and Trump aren't in agreement about what to do with the federal healthcare program.

What it all means to you

You don't have much reason to worry about potential Medicare changes right now. President Trump doesn't seem to be reversing his stance on major Medicare reform. And if he did, any effort would consume an enormous amount of political capital that perhaps would be wasted in the end.

While the repeal of Obamacare seems likely, stripping away some provisions of the legislation shouldn't be very disruptive to Medicare beneficiaries. Some aspects of a repeal could help seniors, such as restoring some flexibility for seniors to switch Medicare Advantage plans, like they had prior to Obamacare.

Sooner or later, though, huge changes to Medicare must come. Medicare spending is expected to increase over the next few years be-cause of the aging U.S. population. The Medicare Part A hospital insurance trust fund is on pace to run out of money in 2028. Whether it's Trump or not, someone will have to sign Medicare reform into law before the program is in serious jeopardy.