A ‘roadmap’ to gutting Medicare

A ‘ROADMAP’ TO GUTTING MEDICARE…. This was the week I started getting a little tired of the media’s interest in Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — the NYT ran yet another profile on Thursday — but I suppose it’s worth noting that the far-right lawmaker had an op-ed in the Washington Post the other day on Medicare.

For context, keep in mind that Republican rhetoric on the seniors’ health care program has been hard to grasp. For many years, the GOP goal was to cut Medicare. When Democrats proposed cost-saving measures in the same program as part of health care reform, Republicans pretended to be outraged that Dems would try to cut Medicare.

Soon after, Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee and the media’s new conservative darling, unveiled his budget “roadmap,” complete with deep cuts to Medicare. It this strikes you as an incoherent message, then we’re on the same page.

This month, however, we learned that the savings from the Affordable Care Act will strengthen Medicare by extending the Trust Fund for 12 years. Ryan was unimpressed.

We do not have a choice as to whether Medicare will change from its current structure. It is being driven to insolvency. An honest debate requires a serious discussion of how Medicare will avert its collapse and be made sustainable. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Democrats’ political machine has attacked my contribution to this debate, making the false claim that the only solution put forward to save Medicare would “end Medicare as we know it.”

I’m not sure why Ryan considers this characterization “false.”

Ryan’s approach isn’t particularly complicated. Under his “roadmap” plan, Medicare funding would be overhauled and replaced — seniors would get vouchers to purchase coverage from private insurers, offering unregulated, pre-ACA insurance, without the Democrats’ consumer protections.

The value of those vouchers would not be designed to keep up with escalating health care costs — coverage would cost more than the benefits, and seniors on a fixed income would be expected to make up the difference.

Would this “end Medicare as we know it”? That seems more than fair as a description. Stephanie Cutter had a good item on this published at the White House’s blog:

The bottom line under the Ryan plan: Costs would continue to rise, the value of benefits provided to seniors would continue to fall, and seniors would be stuck with fewer benefits and bigger bills. And, according to outside analysts, his plan would substantially increase the deficit in the medium-term.

We won’t go down Rep. Ryan’s road.

I sure hope not.