Want to save Medicare? Review its history
The current debate over Medicare reform in the presidential election is important because it will affect the direction and future decisions about U.S. healthcare policy.
Paul Ryan’s initial plan to change Medicare from a fee-for-service system to a voucher system offered seniors no choice between the two systems. When he dropped this little bombshell in 2011 the general reaction was as expected: those close to being most effected by it (the 55 and older folks) angrily freaked out, and the Democratic Party politically pounced on it, as well they should. Telling millions of seniors to say bye-bye to Medicare, which is what Ryan’s plan was intended to do, was political suicide. Seeing that, Ryan and his party changed the plan and now offer seniors a choice: Stay with Medicare as is, or opt for a voucher system for private insurance, which ostensibly picks up the difference in costs.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the initial Ryan plan would average costing seniors an additional $6,400 a year over the voucher allocation. So now that Ryan and Co. had to change their scheme, it’s not known exactly how much it’s going to cost seniors should they opt for private insurance. But any sentient being who has ever had to buy health insurance must know by now how these insurance companies operate and on whose behalf.
The Republican Party insists that the “premium support would always be enough to cover the two lowest (healthcare) plans.” If you believe that, and if you believe that insurance companies will not raise their rates on at least a yearly basis, then opt for the Ryan plan and see what comes to pass.
Both the Republican and Democrat plans propose a $716 billion cut in Medicare over the next 10 years, which comes from the same sources in both plans: hospitals and insurance companies. Are these cuts necessary, and from these sources, in order to keep Medicare solvent? It’s hard to know if this assessment is correct, but again it’s a CBO estimate, and the point is both plans seem to be in agreement with it.
What is known is that every advanced nation on Earth gives its citizens some form of universal healthcare, except the U.S. The closest we’ve come is Medicare – a Democratic plan. So it comes down to, who do you trust to keep Medicare as it is and was constructed to be: the party that provided it in the first place in 1965, or the party that fought it every step of the way, as they did Social Security, the minimum wage and just about every program that benefitted ordinary people and not the very wealthy?
Cuts to Medicare have been made in the past and they’ll be made in the future. But it’s important to remember this: Republicans want to end Medicare. They can’t do it in one shot so they’ll do it incrementally over time. That is their objective. You can take any position you want on the Medicare issue, but this much is certain: If you don’t look at history, and which parties have done what, you won’t have a clue as to what to expect.
And on a personal note, I’m not a Democrat and will not be voting for either of those party’s candidates.
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Will Shonbrun writes and blogs in Boyes Hot Springs.