Our guest blogger is Emily Oshima Lee, a research associate on the health policy team at the Center for American Progress.
In its first specific response to the recent CAP Action Fund report that detailed the exorbitant extra costs all seniors would have to pay under the Romney-Ryan premium support plan, Romney’s campaign claims that the CAPAF analysis is incorrectly based on the assumption that Romney’s premium support proposal includes a voucher cap. The CAPAF analysis did, indeed, assume that Romney’s premium support proposal would include a voucher cap – because he endorsed such a plan in December 2011.
The structure of the voucher program CAPAF used in its analysis is, in fact, identical to the cap Rep. Paul Ryan proposed in his 2012 House Budget Plan, which Romney has heartily endorsed multiple times, calling the plan “marvelous,” “an excellent piece of work,” and stating that he was “very supportive” of the plan that was “very much consistent with what [he] put out earlier.” A top Romney adviser even stated that Romney “would have signed” the Ryan budget, although Romney’s advisers have had trouble articulating which policies, exactly, he would support in the past. CAPAF felt that it was fair and reasonable to use the details of the Romney-endorsed Ryan budget to analyze the effects of the plan because Romney has failed to outline the specifics of his premium support proposal.
The question on the amount of the voucher, in fact, is featured as one of several “Frequently Asked Questions About Mitt’s Plan” on his campaign website. The question and response on his website read:
How high will the premium support be? How quickly will it grow?
Mitt continues to work on refining the details of his plan, and he is exploring different options.
The response does not provide any information on which options Romney is exploring, and certainly does not specify the rate of growth. As a recent Boston Globe article noted, “Romney’s plan is not clear about how quickly premium support payments would grow, and it does not explicitly reject the idea of a cap…Romney makes no guarantees that vouchers will keep up with insurance costs.” Yet, even as Romney fails to provide any specifics, his camp asserts that “there has been insufficient attention paid to the details of the various proposals.” Other than his statements of support for the 2012 House Budget Plan, Romney has not provided any details that might allow the public to figure out how his proposals, when implemented, would affect seniors, the national budget, and the solvency of Medicare.
However, even if Romney’s “details” did not include a voucher cap, seniors would still pay significantly more. Much of the estimated damage that would be done by a Medicare premium support proposal stems not only from the cap, but from increases to the system-wide costs of health care. These increases would result because as more seniors enroll in private plans, which have higher administrative costs and profit margins than Medicare, neither Medicare nor any single provider would have sufficient market share to negotiate provider prices as low as Medicare currently receives.
For a current senior, we estimate that these system-wide effects would cost an additional $26,600. For seniors reaching age 67 in 2050, these effects would cost an additional $106,000. Though Romney claims that “nothing will change” for current seniors, both the CAPAF report and a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report find that repealing Obamacare will increases costs for seniors and strip them of important benefits currently provided under the law. Repeal would in fact accelerate the projected insolvency of Medicare to just four years from now.
Romney has failed to outline any policies that would allow him to protect seniors and the future of Medicare as he claims he would. Yet, his policy director claims, “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan welcome a discussion over Medicare’s future…But any discussion must focus on what each side actually proposes.”
Romney and Ryan, we’re ready to discuss. When you’ve paid “sufficient attention” to the details of your proposal and figure out what you’re actually proposing, let us know.