Friday, August 31, 2012

The Truth About Medicare

Medicare was designed as a guarantee that citizens over 65 will have adequate medical care regardless of how healthy or wealthy they are.  The Romney/Ryan plan would change this.

Romney and Ryan both call for turning Medicare into a voucher system. Seniors would be given a certain amount of money each year to buy health insurance on their own. If that amount isn’t enough to pay for the kind of coverage you need, you pay the difference out of pocket. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this will force seniors to pay an average of $6,500 a year more for their insurance.

Because of the system in place today, Medicare's size allows the government to negotiate its rates. However, if it loses many of its healthier enrollees to private insurers (because they feel they can do without insurance), Medicare will likely lose bargaining power with its providers, making it harder and costlier for seniors who need healthcare.

Unlike the Romney-Ryan plan, President Obama’s plan actually achieves billions in savings without cutting payments to Medicare beneficiaries.

Prior to the new healthcare law –under the Medicare Part D program—seniors initially paid 25 percent of their medication costs while Medicare paid the rest. However, once they reached a certain spending limit (the coverage gap commonly known as the “donut hole”), beneficiaries were required to pay the full costs of their prescription drugs out of pocket.

What Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ie. Obamacare) does is make the program more affordable by gradually closing the donut hole and reducing wasteful spending by private insurers. This will lower premiums, increase savings, and extend the life of Medicare ( click here for more details ).

The Romney-Ryan plan, by contrast, achieves its savings by turning Medicare into a voucher whose value doesn't keep up with expected increases in healthcare costs -- thereby shifting the burden onto Medicare beneficiaries.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to turn Medicare over to the private market. And as was the case before Obamacare, where private insurers dropped coverage for patients who had preexisting conditions and were deemed “risky”, seniors would face the same fate.

The underlining message is who should bear the burden. Time and time again, whether it is with Romney’s plan to lower the tax rates for the top percent (which means that taxes on the middle-class will be higher); or with Romney’s plan to decrease the size of the federal government (even when states are barely able to keep teachers police officers on payroll), we have seen the Republican Party shift greater burdens to people with less bargaining power.

But what Republicans need to understand is that we’re all interdependent on one another in all walks of life.

That is the choice in this election. 

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