Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) — a strong proponent of Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization scheme — told students at Mundelein High School on Tuesday that he would support transforming Medicare into a “safety net” program of last resort for seniors with no other coverage options:
But he spent the most time talking about the need to cut spending on federal health programs, including Medicare. Medicare should be used only as a “safety net” for those who cannot get health care anywhere else, he said. “We have got to begin to pay for and be more responsible for our own health care costs,” he said.
Those who are affluent should pay more for medical care, he said. He cited as an example his parents, who live in a “fancy retirement home in Barrington.” Teacher Thomas Kuhn asked Walsh what type of reaction he was hearing from senior citizens regarding cuts.
“Maybe I’m wrong and I won’t be in Congress two years from now … but most people say: ‘I’m in. I know we have got a big problem,’” Walsh said. But he noted people 55 and older would not be impacted if the reforms he supports become law.
Walsh would be happy to know that more affluent seniors are already paying more for Medicare Part B and that the government-run program has delivered care far more efficiently than private insurers. Medicare expenses per beneficiary have certainly increased since it was enacted in 1965, but they’ve risen significantly less than private insurance premiums — unraveling the program and forcing beneficiaries into other kinds of insurance plans would actually increase health care costs, not lower them.
In fact, as the largest U.S. purchaser and regulator of health care, Medicare exerts major influence on the rest of the health care system and “its reimbursement and coverage policies have been widely adopted by private insurers and other public programs.” For instance, since Medicare has emphasized payment reform, “private plans generally use the public Medicare plan’s criteria for covering treatments as their standard of medical necessity, and they have adopted many of Medicare’s innovations in payment methods.”