When the U.S. housing bubble burst the aftershocks were at the heart of the financial crisis and Great Recession, so you might think that policymakers would avoid at all costs the kinds of policies that fed the housing bubble. Enter the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which yesterday put into effect a 0.50 percent (50 basis points) reduction in the premiums borrowers must pay for taxpayer-backed FHA mortgage insurance.
Medicare accounted for an unsustainable 14 percent of federal spending in 2013.
A key piece of economic news was yesterday’s Case-Shiller Home Price Indices which showed a nationwide deceleration in the rate of home price appreciation. The national average is now rising at a rate of 6.2 percent over the past 12 months. The release generated some hand-wringing about the possibility that the housing recovery might stall, something that has clearly happened in Phoenix and other metropolitan areas.
The Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare programs released their annual reports yesterday. Read the coverage and claims contained therein carefully, with an eye for two key moments of spin: (1) the fiscal news is good and the programs are fine, and (2) Obamacare has improved the outlook for Medicare. Instead, remember this: (3) both programs are fiscal toast and need immediate reforms to continue to provide future seniors with an appropriate safety net.
Senate confirmation hearings begin this week for Sylvia Matthews Burwell–currently the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the President’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Burwell would replace outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has held the office since April 2009. Ms. Burwell should move to make HHS a more transparent, accountable organization under her leadership.
The Fed released its beige book — a summary of on-the-ground observations in each of the 12 Federal Reserve districts — yesterday. The summary was simple: "Reports from the twelve Federal Reserve Districts suggest economic activity increased in most regions of the country since the previous report.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin Discusses the Future of Medicare on Fox Business
In January the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed new regulations for Medicare Part D that would limit plan options, restrict competition, and interfere with plans’ negotiations. Under the guise of ordinary rulemaking, the proposed regulations are a fundamental contravention of the policy principles that have made Part D a popular, low-cost, and innovative program. If implemented, the taxpayer will face higher budget costs, millions of seniors will lose their preferred plans, benefits will diminish, and premiums will rise.
At its inception, Medicare was designed to be a hospital insurance plan for the elderly, motivated by expensive hospital stays that neither the hospitals nor their aging patients could afford.
The Recovery Audit (RA) Program exists to detect and correct improper claims to the Medicare program. The contracted firms are paid a portion of their recoveries, so the program delivers savings to the Medicare Trust Fund at no cost.