Senate Democrats

“Ending Medicare As We Know It” – Part II

After previous failed attempts, Republicans are committed to doubling down on their efforts to “end Medicare as we know it.” Yesterday, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan “promised that House Republicans will stick with his plan to fundamentally recast Medicare as a premium-support system.” Over the weekend, he emphasized, “We’re not backing off on the kinds of reforms that we’ve advocated… We’re confident that these are the right policies.” Chairman Ryan and fellow Republicans appear ready to once again ignore public opinion and fight to dismantle Medicare, emphasizing that “Our members are ready to go forward. They’re excited.”

Last year’s Republican budget suggested converting Medicare into a voucher-type program, forcing seniors to pay $6,359 more for health care – more than double what they would pay under traditional Medicare – and  slashing benefits for more than 20 million Americans. In addition, their budget would have “reopened” the prescription drug donut hole, forcing seniors to pay an estimated $44 billion in additional drugs costs. Although the public clearly rejected their proposed reforms, Republicans have dug in on their pursuit of policies  which protect special interest subsidies and tax breaks for those at the top, while jeopardizing programs critical to America’s seniors.

This time, House Speaker John Boehner and Chairman Ryan announced plans to “end Medicare as we know it” with a new wrinkle.   Health economists indicate that this new premium support model, “likely would shift substantial costs to beneficiaries rather than protect them from such cost increases, could lead to the demise of traditional Medicare over time rather than preserve it, and likely would produce few savings.” The plan has already been rejected by Congressional Democrats and the White House.

Meanwhile, Republicans are working to pave the way for this and other radical proposals to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits for seniors. This week, the House Budget Committee will consider a Ribble-Ryan bill (H.R. 3577) that purports to “streamline the budget process.”  According to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this legislation could make it easier to require deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security through the budget.

Instead of pushing extreme policies that will end Medicare, Republicans should work with Democrats to cut waste, reduce fraud, and improve efficiency in the delivery of health care using America’s innovative technology.