Medicare Privatization Is Merely Ending Medicare by Another Name
Ending Medicare as we know it has been a very hot topic this year, with Americans at town halls across the country erupting in protest at the idea when it was proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and passed by the GOP-controlled House. The idea got another airing recently after Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney went all in on the disastrous idea.
Unfortunately, the fact that the idea is terrible politics and toxic policy didn’t stop Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) from signing on to a modified version of Ryan’s plan to end Medicare.
Here’s the rundown.
The Gist of the Latest Medicare Privatization Plan
The basic idea of the plan is to give seniors a voucher with which they could purchase a health plan of their choice. The annual value of the voucher for each senior would be determined by the cost of a low-cost plan.
The biggest difference between this new plan and the original Ryan plan is that it keeps traditional Medicare as an option for seniors to purchase with their voucher, but this will be a false choice for many seniors.
In addition to the problem of merely shifting costs from the government onto seniors, many of the other technical problems with the idea remain similar to those plans that would simply end Medicare altogether.
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, lays it out here:
The Medicare privatization plan unveiled [last week] by Rep. Ryan and Sen. Wyden still shifts costs to many seniors, making many of those who wish to remain in traditional Medicare pay sharply higher premiums—or forcing them to move to a private plan that provides lower quality care or less choice of providers. While the plan provides seniors a “choice” of traditional Medicare, in reality it’s a false choice for many that jeopardizes their economic security. Private plans could cherry-pick healthy beneficiaries to undercut traditional Medicare, driving up premiums for those who remain in traditional Medicare. This result would sacrifice the advantages of Medicare: its pricing power, its low administrative costs, and its ability to drive system-wide efficiencies in health care delivery. These risks are too great and set our country and our seniors on an uncharted path that lays the foundation to end Medicare as we know it.
This new plan is nothing more than a smokescreen to cover up the efforts of conservatives earlier this year to end Medicare as we know it. Nothing has changed. Conservatives voted to dismantle Medicare. Conservatives still want to place more of a burden on America’s seniors.
GOP Presidential Candidates Embrace Latest Misguided Medicare Privatization Plan
While the plan largely got the shoulder from progressives, it was eagerly embraced by GOP presidential front-runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
For his part, Wyden told ThinkProgress that he didn’t “put too much stock into” the Republicans rushing to embrace his plan.
IN ONE SENTENCE: Instead of looking for new ways to end Medicare as we know it through privatization and cost-shifting, we need to build on the numerous reforms and significant cost-savings already included in the Affordable Care Act — reforms and savings that are working for seniors as we speak, and that cut costs rather than shifting costs.
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