Romney and Ryan push a Medicare plan relying on vouchers for new retirees
By challenging President Obama to a debate on Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney and his vice presidential choice, Paul Ryan, have made Obama’s most important achievement the center of the campaign debate.
Using distorted, misrepresented or fabricated charges Romney and Ryan are selling the narrative that they, rather than Obama, will save Medicare.
With his 78-year-old mother standing by, Ryan laid out plans for saving Medicare in an address to seniors in an upscale Florida retirement community last Saturday.
“Here is what Mitt Romney and I will do,” Ryan told the cheering crowd. “We will end the raid of Medicare ... And we will make sure that this board of bureaucrats will not mess with my mom’s health care or your mom’s health care.”
Praising traditional Medicare, Ryan told the crowd how important Medicare had been to his family when his grandmother suffered Alzheimer’s disease.
“Medicare was there for my family, for my grandma, when we needed it. And Medicare is there for my mom when she needs it now, and we have to keep that guarantee.”
Carefully choosing his words, Ryan assured the seniors, “Our solution to preserve, protect and save Medicare does not affect your benefits.”
The Romney-Ryan plan would guarantee traditional Medicare to those seniors 55 and older when the law goes into effect.
Those younger than 55 would be awarded a sum of money to purchase insurance on the open market. Democrats call it a “voucher” plan and Republicans call it “premium support,” but they mean the same.
Rather than being insured primarily by Medicare, these new enrollees would use their warrants to underwrite part of the cost of insurance on the open market.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost difference between Medicare and a commercial policy would be over $6,000 per person in 2022.
Those economically unable to purchase insurance even with the voucher and those refused insurance because of prior conditions or age would be enrolled in a government program. The cost for the government to insure them would be astronomical without a mixture of younger, healthier enrollees to offset some of the costs.
Using proven “Mediscare” tactics, Ryan zeroes in on two nonexistent problems to frighten seniors into demanding protection of their Medicare from the Obama administration.
First is the unsubstantiated claim that Obama “raided” Medicare for $716 billion to underwrite the startup costs for the Affordable Care Act. “So now the money you paid for your guaranteed health care is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you,” warns a Republican attack ad.
The fact is, most of the $716 billion is savings from cutting subsidies to private insurance companies for administering the Medicare Advantage plan and reaching an agreement with hospitals for lower payments.
None of these savings come from a reduction of benefits to Medicare enrollees.
Adding deception to dishonesty, Ryan fails to tell seniors that his own budget finds these same Medicare savings. But, rather than use the money to support the Affordable Care Act, the Romney-Ryan team would use them to give a tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.
The second chimera Ryan evokes is the discredited threat of “death squads.” In response to the Affordable Care Act requirement for an Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, Ryan assured seniors “we will make sure that this board of bureaucrats will not mess with my mom’s health care or your mom’s health care.”
The IPAB is charged with finding savings in Medicare, but it is restricted from recommending any rationing of health care, premium or cost-sharing increases, reduction in benefits or change in eligibility requirements.
Like the overblown charge of “raiding” Medicare, the bureaucratic threat exists only in the imagination of a desperate campaign.
Perhaps Ryan is right when he says the country, as well as the Republicans, needs a debate on Medicare and the ACA. It should, however, be a debate about real issues, not stuff Romney and Ryan make up.
Transforming traditional Medicare from a single payer health plan for all seniors to subsidies for buying health care in the open market is likely to leave millions of American retirees worse off than they are today.