Medicare Is A Defining Issue

Sen. Chuck Schumer said last week’s vote on Medicare will make the program “a defining issue” in 2012.  It already has been for Members of the House and Harry Reid’s bringing the Ryan Plan up for a vote forced Republicans in the Senate to go on the record.  All but five of them voted to end Medicare as we know it.  Let’s review for a moment what the GOP platform would do to Medicare.  The present program of government single payer health care for seniors, the disabled and orphans collects premiums in the form of payroll taxes and withdrawals from Social Security checks and disburses funds to the providers of health care:  hospitals, doctors, labs, radiation centers and so forth.  The Ryan Plan replaces it with a government voucher worth a fixed annual amount of $6,000 which these folks would use to obtain health insurance in the private market.

Medicare would no longer exist as we know it.  For example:

There is a huge difference in one important aspect between the Medicare program in the Ryan budget plan and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, or F.E.H.B.P., for federal employees and for members of Congress.

Basically, the F.E.H.B.P. is best described as a typical employer-sponsored health insurance plan. The federal government’s – that is, taxpayers’ – annual contribution to the premiums paid to competing private insurers by employees and members of Congress would rise in step with the average premiums charged by the private insurers (see Page 1).

These premiums have been rising over time more or less in step with the overall increase in per-capita health spending in this country.

By contrast, under the Ryan plan, the federal contribution toward the purchase of private health insurance by future Medicare beneficiaries would be indexed only to the Consumer Price Index (see Page 2 of the C.B.O. analysis).

According to The New York Times:

Calculations derived from the C.B.O. analysis show that in 2022, when the Ryan plan would kick in, the typical 65-year-old would pay $6,400 to $7,000 more per year than would be paid for comparable coverage under traditional Medicare.

The major talking point being used by Republican Members of Congress is that the Ryan Medicare Plan is the same they receive.  Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-06), for example, is telling this to constituents who call or write his office concerning his vote for the Ryan Plan.  It isn’t true.  Paul Ryan penned this lie in an OpEd in The Wall Street Journal where he stated:

“Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy.”

The only way this is true would be if Members of the House and Senate were kicked off the Federal Employee Health benefit Plan and forced to enroll in the Ryan Plan.  Here is a good comparison including graphs.  Think Progress notes:

Ryan’s other selling point about increased assistance to lower income Americans is similarly misleading because seniors who will be forced to choose from an array of private insurers would still have to pay more for the same amount of coverage than if they simply stayed in the traditional Medicare program. Private insurers carry extra cost, as a comparison of traditional Medicare and private insurers in Medicare Advantage demonstrates. Both operate under the same rules and enroll the same population, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, traditional Medicare spends less than 2 percent of expenditures on administrative costs, while private plans in Medicare Advantage spend approximately 11 percent on additional expenditures like profits. As the CBO concluded, under Ryan’s plan, “future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.”

This is why Sen. Schumer says the Ryan Plan votes will be a defining issue in 2012.  It isn’t the same plan Members of Congress have and it is a radical departure from the current Medicare program.  Americans aren’t being hoodwinked by the lies and rhetoric and they’re attending town halls, writing letters and emails and deciding to vote against this in November 2012.  Things are getting so bad that two Republicans from Pennsylvania, freshmen Congressmen Lou Barletta and Tom Marino are banning non media from recording anyone at their upcoming public meetings for constituents.