Sunday, February 5th, 2012
Skyrocketing health care cost and the aging of the Baby Boomers have put a terrible strain on Medicare. Voters who want to save the program must pay close attention to what candidates say about it, because the next President and the next Congress will be making critical decisions about Medicare. This program is a lifeline to American seniors, including those with mesothelioma, which nearly always is diagnosed in people over the age of 50.
A win in the Nevada Caucus this weekend brought Mitt Romney closer to the Republican presidential nomination. So let’s continue to look at what he’s been saying about Medicare. A week ago, former Massachusetts governor Romney was promising Florida seniors he would protect their Medicare.
“Now, by the way, I understand a few of you here are on Medicare. Is that true? [Crowd laughs.] That being the case, I hope you tell your friends who always fear that Republicans somehow might go after Medicare, you can tell them a couple of things. One, we will never go after Medicare or Social Security. We will protect those programs. But also, you make sure and tell them this: There’s only one president in history that’s cut Medicare $500 billion and that’s Barack Obama. And guess what he did it for? He did it to pay for Obamacare?”
As discussed in the last post, Mr. Romney has explicitly endorsed the Paul Ryan plan for Medicare. Under the Ryan proposal, people currently on Medicare could stay in the original plan. But after 2020, seniors will be expected to purchase their own insurance. The government would provide “premium support.” sent directly to the insurers, to help offset the cost of insurance. To reduce the burden to the federal budget, the Ryan plan would keep the amount of “support” below the actual rate of medical inflation, so that over time seniors would have to spend more of their own money for health care.
Supporters of the plan say it would reduce cost in two ways — first, by having private insurance companies rather than government bureaucracy administer the program; second, requiring seniors to pay for their own care will make them smarter health care consumers. Critics of the plan point out that the cost of private insurance has gone up faster and higher than the cost of government programs like Medicare and Medicaid. And requiring seniors to pay more of their own medical bills probably will mean many retirees will do without care they need.
But what about the cuts President Obama made? John McDonough of the Boston Globe explains that those “cuts” actually were cost savings, not cuts to program benefits. For example, overpayments to Medicare Advantage providers is being phased out so that taxpayers pay no more for Medicare Advantage benefits than for regular Medicare. This will save taxpayers $135.6 billion. Not a single benefit has been cut from Medicare.