March 12, 2013

Paul Ryan Is At It Again – Proposing Harmful Cuts to Medicare

Congressman Ryan ignores the results of the 2012 election and the realities of divided government to propose a budget plan that attacks Medicare

 The following statement was released by Jean Friday, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans:

“Some people never learn.  Since Republicans took control of Congress in 2011, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has been trying to sell his plan to balance the budget on the backs of seniors by decimating the Medicare program.  He and Mitt Romney took this idea on a nationwide tour last year, and it was a significant factor in their inability to defeat a President who was running for re-election in a bad economy.  Nevertheless, he is back with the same Medicare ideas today in the release of his newest budget proposal.

“Not only does Congressman Ryan know his ideas are unpopular with the public, he also knows they are dead-on-arrival in the Senate and on the President’s desk (thank goodness).  If Congressman Ryan were REALLY serious about reducing the deficit, wouldn’t he produce a plan that had a PRAYER of being enacted?  Instead, Congressman Ryan seems more interested in throwing red meat to his political base, which will decide who his Party nominates for President in 2016.

“But politics aside, let’s not forget just how bad the policy ideas espoused by Congressman Ryan are.  Despite the fact that the deficit is already falling thanks to compromises reached the past few years and already we can see a return to a more manageable debt-to-GDP ratio just around the corner, Congressman Ryan still insists on several extreme deficit reduction measures that will hurt seniors and our entire health care system:

  • The Ryan Budget creates a voucher system for Medicare, giving each senior a fixed amount of money to purchase health insurance, either from a private company or through Medicare.  This will leave many seniors with confusing choices and all seniors with higher out-of-pocket costs because insuring seniors is just not a profitable business without significant cost-sharing.  After all, how will this plan save the government money without pushing the costs somewhere else?  It pushes them right onto seniors.
  • The Ryan Budget’s Medicare Vouchers will drive health care costs up.  The way to save Medicare from insolvency is to slow the growth of health care spending overall – public and private sector. Obamacare is designed to do this, and already, without the full implementation of the law, health care costs in 2012 grew at their slowest rate in years.  However, under Ryan’s Budget, more seniors will have private insurance instead of the traditional Medicare program. Why is this a problem? The recent article in Time Magazine by Steven Brill outlines several examples where hospitals charge insurance companies 30% to 50% higher prices than what Medicare pays for tests, procedures, doctor visits, equipment, supplies and anything else that shows up on a hospital bill.  Each senior moved onto private insurance will instantly cost the system an additional 30% to 50%.  This will cause health care spending to skyrocket.
  • The Ryan Budget will also increase health care costs by defunding the mechanisms by which millions of uninsured, but working, Americans will get insurance through Obamacare – the Medicaid Expansion, the insurance exchanges and subsidies for individuals and families who buy through the exchange. We all know that the uninsured drive up health care costs by using the emergency room as their primary doctor, and from their lack of access to preventative or maintenance care.  Ryan’s budget would pull the rug out from under tens of millions of folks who will otherwise get coverage starting in 2014.
  • The Ryan Budget raises the Medicare eligibility age.  Most of Ryan’s ideas are pennywise and pound-foolish, but this one takes the cake.  By forcing seniors to wait longer for Medicare, many will miss out on preventative services or maintenance medications at a very critical time.  These seniors will reach Medicare at 67 sicker and more expensive to care for than if they had been given access to health care at 65.

“Enough is enough, Congressman Ryan.  Scrap these discredited, unpopular and implausible ideas and present us with a budget that puts us on a sound fiscal path by investing in economic growth, asking the richest Americans and corporations to make sacrifices to deficit reduction too, and protects senior citizens’ quality of life.  Modest, balanced deficit reduction, coupled with stronger economic growth, will put us back on the right track.”

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, led by President Jean Friday of Westmoreland County, has over 300,000 members and 144 local affiliates across the Commonwealth.  PARA’s mission is to educate seniors and the public about retiree issues, and organize seniors to advocate for their interests in Harrisburg and Washington.  To learn more, visit www.pennretiredamericans.org.

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