Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) inadvertently referred to prominent Republicans like Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor as liars during an interview with Oklahoma’s News on 6 Thusday night. “Any politicians that stands up and says, ‘We’re not going to touch your Medicare’ is a liar,” Coburn said, apparently forgetting that the GOP has used the talking point as a center piece in their campaign to sell Medicare premium support to the public. Watch Coburn’s remarks:
The GOP has repeatedly argued that it would preserve benefits for existing seniors:
— PAUL RYAN: “If you take a look at our reforms…[they] don’t change any Medicare benefits for a person 55 or above.” [Fox News, 1/29/2012]
— MITT ROMNEY: “We will never go after Medicare or Social Security. We will protect those programs.” [TPM, 1/31/2012]
— ERIC CANTOR: “To today’s seniors, those 55 and older, we’re not going to touch those programs. For the rest of us, we realize these programs won’t be around in their current state and we have to change the nature of those programs for the rest of us.” [CNBC, 4/13/2011]
It’s very very likely that beneficiaries 55 and older would see changes in their Medicare benefits under Ryan’s plan. In 2022, newly-eligible seniors would have to enroll in a private plan, but existing beneficiaries (those who are over 55 today) would also have the option of leaving traditional Medicare. That opens up the possibilities of private plans trying to lure away the healthiest beneficiaries (as is currently the case in Medicare Advantage) and of health care providers abandoning traditional Medicare patients for the higher reimbursement rates of private insurers. For chronically ill seniors who are more likely to remain in fee-for-service Medicare this means two things: higher costs (as the healthier beneficiaries exit the risk pool) and fewer doctors.