THE COST OF Medicare, the top driver of runaway entitlement outlays, seems to be stabilizing at last. For the past three years, Medicare inflation has moderated to an annual average of 3.9 percent. But if you look more deeply, a lot of these supposed savings are actually a shift in costs to patients. As Congress and the administration devise new ways to restrain Medicare, this disguised form of rationing is likely to worsen.
I had a vivid glimpse of this trend in my own family this past winter. In late February, my mother, age 99, had a bad fall. She was taken by ambulance to the closest hospital, Mass. General. Miraculously, she broke no bones, but her face was so badly swollen and bruised that she was unrecognizable and in severe pain.