CUTTING THROUGH THE MEDICARE CHARADE…. In his Wall Street Journal op-ed today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the Republican budget plan is focused on “saving Medicare.”

Of course, in this context, this is intended to strip the word “save” of all meaning. Even the i>Wall Street Journal yesterday noted that the GOP proposal “would essentially end Medicare,” which happens to be true.

Medicare is very easy to understand — it’s a popular system of socialized, single-payer health care for seniors. Beneficiaries love it, and the system works pretty well. The House Republican scheme for Medicare is a little more complicated, but still pretty straightforward — the GOP intends to privatize it. The resulting system would, ironically, look quite a bit like the Affordable Care Act, with seniors entering exchanges, where they would take a subsidy to purchase private insurance.

So, what’s the problem? Republicans intend to rig the game, scrapping the existing system and ending the guarantee of set benefits, while at the same giving beneficiaries a voucher that wouldn’t keep up with costs.

This isn’t “saving Medicare”; it’s ending Medicare and screwing over seniors.

Josh Marshall had a good piece on this yesterday, calling the plan “Medicare Phase-out legislation.”

The Ryan plan is to get rid of Medicare and in place of it give seniors a voucher to buy health care insurance from private insurers. Now, what if you can’t buy as much as insurance or as much care as you need? Well, start saving now or just too bad.

Now, by any reasonable standard, that’s getting rid of Medicare. Abolishing Medicare. Phasing it out. Whatever you want to call it. Medicare is this single payer program that guarantees seniors health care, as noted above. Ryan’s plan pushes seniors into the private markets and give them a voucher. That’s called getting rid of the program. There’s simply no ifs or caveats about. That’s not cuts or slowing of the growth. That’s abolishing the whole program. Saying anything else is a lie.


I’d just add that some folks may have forgotten why Medicare was created in the first place. The nature of the human body is that ailments are more common as we get older, and profit-seeking insurance companies weren’t keen on covering those who cost so much more to cover. On average, folks who’ve lived more than six decades often have pre-existing conditions, and we know all too well what insurers think of those with pre-existing conditions.

Seniors relied on this system for many years, but it didn’t work. We created Medicare because relying on private insurers didn’t work.

And now Republicans want to roll back the clock.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.