7 Reasons Why Romney-Ryan's Desperate Attempts to Spin Medicare Won't Work
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(At this point, you may have noticed that at the heart of Ryan's plan is an individual mandate that seniors buy private health insurance – with the help of some taxpayer dollars. This is the worst form of "tyranny" when a Democrat does it but apparently it's totally OK for a Republican.)
How much of the burden would be shifted onto seniors? The Congressional Budget Office compared Ryan's original “roadmap” (more on that below) with the way Medicare works now, and found that in 2022, each beneficiary would be spending $6,359 more out-of-pocket under Ryan's plan. And this would save the government a grand total of just $615 per person. (He later sweetened his vouchers a bit, so the number would now be smaller, but the inescapable reality of his plan's structure persists.)
Now, Ryan says that the magic of the free market will bring healthcare costs down, but he hasn't offered any specifics in that area, so we are left with only what the CBO analysis tells us.
3. Yes, The Ryan Plan Does Hurt Current Retirees
Republicans have been trying to insulate themselves among seniors by stressing the fact that current retirees can keep their Medicare just the way it is. The Ryan plan, they say, will only effect people 55 and under. There are two problems with this: first, it's simply untrue. Second, seniors are not as selfish as the GOP believes them to be.
While Ryan's plan exempts current Medicare enrollees from his voucher scheme, it also repeals the Affordable Care Act, and the ACA has benefits that current enrollees are seeing right now. Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic explains that “if somebody is 'stealing' from seniors here, it's not Obama”:
[ACA helps seniors] pay for prescription drugs, by filling the "donut hole" in Medicare Part D coverage. It also eliminates out-of-pocket costs for annual wellness visits, some cancer screenings, and other preventative services. Those benefits have actually started already: In the first six months of this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 16 million seniors took advantage of the free preventative care provision.
Ryan's budget—which, again, Romney has repeatedly embraced and said he would sign—actually takes those new benefits away. The Part D donut hole would open back up. Access to free preventative care would vanish.
This one hasn't caught on with the media yet – they've been uncritically repeating the claim that Ryan's plan wouldn't impact current retirees – but it's early yet, and Democrats say that this will be the next (and accurate) line of attack as the campaign progresses.
The other gross miscalculation cynical conservatives have made is in their belief that seniors only care about their own Medicare benefits. But as one retiree interviewed at a Florida retirement home by NPR this week put it, "He's not going to do away with Medicare for seniors, but he will for Medicare for my kids and my grandkids." The reality is that older Americans really like Medicare, and want it preserved for their progeny, and the polling bears this out – a CNN poll last year found that while 58 percent of Americans didn't like Ryan's Medicare scheme, a whopping 74 percent of seniors opposed it.
4. Another Big Problem for Romney: Ryan's Specificity
Ryan's plan is anything but “brave” – studies by political scientists like Princeton scholar Larry Bartels ( PDF) have found that politicians' votes line up with the interests of the wealthiest Americans, “while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect” on their decisions. Ryan's plan fits that pattern to a T, and he's reaped a fundraising windfall as a result.