Yesterday, Scott Keyes reported that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) effort to sell his budget proposal was not going over well with conservative constituents in his district. During a town hall meeting in Milton, attendees booed Ryan for rejecting the notion that the top income earners should be taxed more.
Last night, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) received a similarly hostile reception from constituents during a public forum in Carbon County, as he tried to (incorrectly) reassure the group that Ryan’s budget would not affect the Medicare benefits of those over the age of 55. “This plan does not do nothing to affect anyone 55 years or older,” he said. “When we start doing things that scare senior citizens, like politicians do that to get elected, I believe they need to find a different occupation.” But before Barletta could continue, 64-year-old Linda Christman raised her hand and argued that those under 55 would see an erosion of benefits. The exchange became heated as other constituents began yelling for the woman to “sit down“:
CHRISTMAN: “Excuse me, I’d like to get something off my chest. And that is, you seem to think that because I’m not affected I won’t care if my niece, my grandson, my child is affected. I do care. And what you’re doing with this Ryan budget is you’re taking Medicare and you’re changing it from a guaranteed health care system to one that is a voucher system where you throw seniors on the mercy of for-profit insurance companies. […]
BARLETTA: “Well, I won’t destroy Medicare, Medicare is going to be destroyed by itself. You’re….”
CHRISTMAN: “I have a great way for you…”
CROWD: “Let him talk….Sit down!…Let him talk! SIT DOWN!”
MAN: “I agree with her. And you know what? Why don’t you tell me to sit down?!”
CROWD: SIT DOWN!
MAN: “She’s an American citizen….Why don’t you show some manners and shut your mouth and let her talk…Why don’t you grow up and stop acting like a bunch of little boys?”
Under the Ryan plan, Americans under 55 would have to purchase coverage from an exchange of private insurers, which would receive a government voucher that depreciates over time. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has pointed out in its analysis of the Ryan proposal, “a typical beneficiary would spend more for health care….[because] private plans would cost more than traditional Medicare because of the net effect of differences in payment rates for providers, administrative costs, and utilization of health care services.” “Second, the government’s contribution would grow more slowly than health care costs, leaving more for beneficiaries to pay.”
Seniors over 55 could also see changes in their traditional Medicare plans after 2022. Since those currently over 55 would be able to enroll in private coverage, insurers would have an incentive to lure away the healthiest beneficiaries (creating what’s known as a death spiral) and health care providers could abandon traditional Medicare patients for the higher reimbursement rates of private insurers.