How the Medicare-Destroying GOP Budget Plan Could Kill Me (And You)
Editor's note: Today, Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan introduced a budget proposal that would essentially eliminate Medicare and Medicaid as we know it. Under Ryan's plan, people who are 54 years old or younger would give up their guaranteed benefits in exchange for vouchers that would go towards buying insurance in an exchange. But the value of the vouchers would grow much more slowly than health-care costs,meaning that seniors would gradually bear more of the burden for their health-care. As Josh Marshall put it, "Now, what if you can't buy as much as insurance or as much care as you need? Well, start saving now or just too bad." Meanwhile, Medicaid, which services the poor and disabled, including many seniors, would be phased out in favor of block grants distributed to the states. Meanwhile, the proposal slashes taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans resulting in far less deficit reduction than promised.
The Republicans have a plan to destroy Medicare.
If enacted I will likely die an early death as will my wife.
A little background: I have a chronic autoimmune disorder that forced me to retire from my profession over ten years ago. The drugs I take each year (and I take mostly generic versions of those medications) cost roughly $5,000 last year. With insurance, the amount I paid for those drugs cost about $1,200.
My wife is not so lucky. She is a pancreatic cancer survivor (since 2006) who, as a result of the chemotherapy drugs she received, suffered permanent brain damage. The details regarding the cognitive problems she struggles with are described in this post at Booman Tribune for those who are interested. She is also a Type 1 Diabetic since the cancer and cancer treatments effectively destroyed her pancreas. The drugs she takes for her health issues are much more expensive than mine. They cost roughly $16,000 last year of which we paid roughly $4,000.
My wife, as a fully disabled person who receives SSD benefits, was shifted to Medicare A for doctor visits, etc. Her drugs (as are mine, my daughter and my son), however, are still covered under the group insurance plan of her former employer. The cost of those premiums is roughly $7000 per year and we pay the full amount. Though the premiums have increased each year (roughly 5% give or take), we manage. In this we are fortunate, since if we had to buy individual policies for health care the cost would be much higher.
In New York, where we live the average cost of an individual family health care plan in 2009 was a little under $14,000, but due to my wife's chronic condition (Type 1 diabetes and organic brain disorder), my chronic autoimmune disorder, and my daughters' chronic ADHD condition and anxiety disorder I suspect the cost of an individual health care plan for our family would be significantly higher if we had to purchase one on the open market in 2011.
At present, including the costs of insurance premiums, drugs, dentist visits, doctor visits and other forms of medical treatment for our family we pay out of pocket roughly 21,000 per year.
Neither my wife or I will turn 65 before 2021, when the Republican voucher system would go in place and also at which time the eligibility age for Medicare would be raised to 67. As an aside, I don't know what would happen to us at 65. I can only assume our health insurance from my wife's plan would terminate but we would not be eligible for vouchers, leaving a two year gap. I am presently 54 and my wife is 52, by the way.
At 67 (or 65), my wife and I will no longer have the luxury of relying on her former employer's group health care plan. Under the Republican plan to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a "voucher" system we will be screwed. Whatever insurance plan we might be able to buy would either cost far, far more than the voucher provided to us or not be worth the paper its printed on (i.e., the deductible would be so high that the insurance would be essentially useless). But don't take my word for it. Here is what the Congressional Budget Office had to say about the Republican plan to kill Medicare:
Voucher recipients would probably have to purchase less extensive coverage or pay higher premiums than they would under current law, for two reasons. First, most of the savings for Medicare under the proposal stem from reducing the amounts that the federal government would pay for enrollees on a per capita basis, relative to the projections under current law. Second, future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare.
So we would have no choice. We could eat or buy extremely crappy health insurance. In the event of a health crisis, it is highly likely that the person with the health issue would die because we could not afford the cost of even barely adequate health care such as we have today. Certainly that would be the case if my wife suffered a recurrence of her cancer, or my condition worsened from merely a chronic condition to one that is life threatening.
At that point the only rational decision for either of us might be to forego any medical treatment and die so as to salvage whatever savings and life insurance payments for our children we can, who lord knows will need all the help they can get in the coming years of this century. Luckily, we have some savings and some life insurance that could be passed on to our children if we don't raid it to pay for health care, shelter and food we could no longer afford.
My parents (already covered by Medicare) would not be effected by the GOP plan since they are assured of full Medicare benefits and presumably their social security benefits would continue (though who knows what will happen to social security for my wife, my children and myself). My mother comes from a family of long lived women. All of her aunts and her mother (my grandmother) lived well into their late nineties and several surpassed the age of 100. Thus there is a good chance that I will die before my mother if this new Republican plan to eliminate Medicare is passed into law.
In my working life I was a lawyer until forced to retire due to my health. Thus I was able to save more than the average person in my retirement plan (a 401K) as was my wife. Still our financial adviser informs us we did not save enough. Yet I look at my situation and compare it to people who have little if any savings in their 401k plans, pensions or IRAs. I may die early but perhaps I will have something to pass onto my children. Perhaps. Or perhaps I will spend all my savings to extend my life a short while. Who can tell what one will do when faced with such a choice?
For most people, though, their will be no choice, If the Republican plan to eliminate Medicare is passed into law, all so the rich can receive another tax cut to from the current 35% to 25%. If you are unemployed or underemployed you are not saving money for retirement, much less the cost of health insurance when you hit 67. The voucher you receive for health insurance (if you live that long) will be worth less than a drop of spit in the ocean.
So you won't have insurance worth spit if you to make it to 67. You will die earlier than you should so rich people can receive more tax breaks. I think the Republicans had a word for that back in 2009 when they opposed health care reform: Death Panels. Well, that usage was a lie. The health care reform act contained no "death panels" who would decide who would live and who would die.
But the Republicans in Congress and anyone else who supports the elimination of health care is acting in effect as a death panel. If their bill passes, and Medicare is eliminated, guess who would be selected fro "early retirement." Well unless you are filthy rich and can afford a gold plated health care plan, the people selected to die early and suffer great misery while awaiting that early death from lack of sufficient health care would be you and me.
And the people making that selection wouldn't be a bunch of faceless bureaucrats. No, they would be members of the party that calls itself the GOP.