PolitiFact has just announced its finalists for 2011’s Lie of the Year. Oddly, the year’s most significant policy claim — the Democrats’ charge that the Paul Ryan budget will end Medicare — made the list, even though it’s 100 percent true!
Here is why: Ryan’s plan ends traditional fee-for-service program and forces seniors to ultimately enroll in private coverage.
Under his proposal, beginning in 2022, people turning 65 will receive a pre-determined “premium support” payment to purchase private coverage. The insurers will offer a basic package of benefits, but traditional Medicare — the program that President Lyndon Johnson enacted in 1965 — will literally stop enrolling new beneficiaries. Rather than paying health care providers directly — and using its market clout to secure better bargains and other efficiencies for enrollees — the government would now pay multiple private health insurers pre-determined amounts per beneficiary to act as middle men between patients and providers.
It will no longer guarantee seniors a defined package of benefits, but will instead only offer a defined contribution towards their health care costs. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of Ryan’s proposal explains, “the payment for 65-year-olds in 2022 is specified to be $8,000, on average, which is approximately the same dollar amount as projected net federal spending per capita for 65-year-olds in traditional Medicare.” However every subsequent year, as health care costs increase, the government’s contribution “would grow at a slower rate,” inflation, and the age of the enrollee. By 2030, under the proposal, the premium support would “only cover 32 percent of a typical 65-year-old’s total health care spending” and would decrease every subsequent year.
PolitiFact concedes that this is, in fact, “a huge change to the current program.” But it’s more than that. Capping costs to beneficiaries, closing the traditional fee-for-service program, and forcing seniors to enroll in new private coverage, ends Medicare by eliminating everything that has defined the program for the last 46 years