Yesterday, in an interview with ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes, Republican presidential aspirant Rick Santorum reiterated his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to end traditional Medicare, even calling for the measure to be implemented “sooner than what he’s suggesting.” During an event in Iowa City, Iowa on Monday, Santorum clarified his position further, calling Ryan’s plan “timid” and suggesting that the government has to cap how much it pays out to seniors:
SANTORUM: The idea of saying to seniors, here are your benefits, use as much as you want, consume as much as you want, is not a good idea. And so what we need to do is to put some sort of, to say, ‘here seniors, here is our compact with you. You get into the system, you’re going to get a very nice and generous benefit. But it’s not an unlimited benefit. Here is how much money we have, we’ll give that to you, you go out and buy the policy that makes sense for you. And you have different policies… Seniors will get, in my opinion, better care. Will they pay more? Sure! If they want more health care. Will they pay less if they take a cheaper policy? Yes, they’ll pay less.
For somebody who’s advocating expanding Ryan’s reforms to today’s seniors, it’s telling that Santorum doesn’t understand why many seniors would have to pay more for their benefits packages. It’s not that they will pay more because they “want more health care” (although if they want more, they will obviously pay more); they’ll pay more because Ryan’s “premium support” does not keep up with health care costs and private plans charge more for the same benefits.
So-called dual eligibles — seniors who are of low-income and also receive a Medicaid subsidy — would also see significant increases because of Ryan’s plan. He would eliminate the Medicaid support and replace it with a $7,800 medical savings account. That amount would grow with inflation every year and would “fall short of what is needed to cover their expenses.” As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has concluded, “The savings account amount would cover only 62 percent of the typical 65-year-old’s out-of-pocket expenses in 2022; this beneficiary would still have to pay an additional $4,700 in health care expenses…This would consume 34 percent of the income of a Medicare beneficiary living at the poverty line (an estimated $13,620 for an individual in 2022).”