In yet another sign that the debt ceiling negotiations have re-ignited conservatives’ fervor to privatize the Medicare program, Reuters is reporting that Tea Party activists are planning to descend on the town halls held by members of Congress while on recess this month to demand that the new super committee and future legislative proposals to reduce entitlement spending incorporate Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to push future beneficiaries into private insurance plans:
Thousands of Tea Party movement activists are expected to descend this month on town hall meetings across key battleground states as part of an intensifying campaign ahead of the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Their priority is a plan to slash Medicare costs proposed by House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which could gain momentum now that a debt-limit deal between President Barack Obama and Congress has made potential Medicare cuts a centerpiece of the deficit debate. […]
“The August town halls are going to be, potentially, a referendum on Democrats who don’t care and Republicans who’ve dared to offer real policy solutions, particularly on things like entitlements,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the small-government advocacy group organizing the initiative. “The Ryan plan is the only one out there so far, and what we need is an adult conversation with all politicians talking about the real issues.”
House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) is also promoting the plan with renewed vigor, telling the Wall Street Journal that Republicans will focus on “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.” He then went on to promote the Ryan plan as a means of lowering government spending on health care.
To recap, the Ryan plan doesn’t actually lower the nation’s health care spending by eliminating beneficiaries or encouraging insurers, hospitals, and doctors to deliver more efficient care. Rather, it reduces government expenditures by asking future enrollees to pay more for their health care coverage. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded 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.” ”This would more than double out-of-pocket health-care spending by a typical senior to $12,500 per year.”
But given the GOP’s effectiveness in obscuring these concerns and their past success overtaking town halls to build political momentum for conservative priorities, Medicare activists shouldn’t take comfort in Americans’ strong support for the existing Medicare system. If anything, they should be prepared with their own ground game so the nation doesn’t have to live through anything approaching the town hall insanity that occurred at the height of the health care reform debate.