Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) received a chilly reaction from audience members at a listening session in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Friday, as multiple constituents challenged the House Budget Chairman on the specifics of his budget and how it would affect current and future retirees. One audience member argued that Ryan’s proposal to push seniors out of traditional Medicare and into more-expensive private coverage is tantamount to murder:
Kenosha resident David Drath, 53, told Ryan he is a kidney transplant patient who relies on support from Medicare and Social Security. “I could not survive on the proposals in your policy,” Drath said. “If they’re put in place, you might as well put a gun to my head.”
Drath, Ryan countered, would remain remain covered by traditional Medicare in spite of his age, as those already enrolled in the program would be exempt from the new system. Furthermore, Ryan said his proposal would prohibit private insurers from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.
Ryan is correct in arguing that private insurers would be prohibited from denying coverage to sicker beneficiaries, but his answer carefully sidesteps the question of cost, which would increase under his proposal. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of Ryan’s proposal found that a “typical” 65-year old would be paying more under Ryan’s plan, regardless of income. “[A] typical beneficiary would spend more for health care…[because] private plans would cost more than traditional Medicare,” the budget office concluded. “[T]he government’s contribution would grow more slowly than health care costs, leaving more for beneficiaries to pay.”
Unfortunately, Republicans aren’t too concerned about how low-income beneficiary would afford more expensive care. Ryan himself has admitted that some seniors would pay more under his plan, and both Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann have said that they “prefer to see” health care “come from charitable organizations.” Bachmann recently told a woman in Winterset, Iowa that her son, who currently receives health insurance through Medicaid, could rely on charities to meet his health care needs.