One of the great success stories of the modern American welfare state has been the Medicare system, which — since 1966 — has provided health insurance for all Americans age 65 and done so much more efficiently than private insurance. While Medicare may be a very popular program today, it was bitterly fought by the right when it was proposed. (Ronald Reagan even produced commercials claiming that the single-payer health care system for the elderly would lead to a dictatorship.)
In an attempt to reclaim the right’s rich tradition of opposing Medicare, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has proposed legislation that would roll back the Medicare system and replace it with a system of vouchers that seniors could use to purchase private insurance:
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun introduced his own health care reform bill last week that would, among other things, privatize the Medicare insurance program for seniors.Broun’s bill would replace government benefits with vouchers that could be spent on private insurance or put in tax-free medical savings accounts.
“We’ve got to fix Medicare,” he said. “It’s headed in a direction that’s unsustainable.”
While Medicare is facing future budgetary problems, privatization isn’t the solution. Medicare Advantage, the Medicare plan under which the administration of the program is farmed out to private insurance companies, has more than five times the administrative costs of the traditional public Medicare plan.
Earlier this year, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) — who is a strong supporter of extending a program like Medicare to all Americans — introduced an amendment that would eliminate Medicare. Not a single member of Congress voted for Weiner’s amendment, including Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), despite his long-held belief that the program is unconstitutional.