Friday, April 15, 2011

A Truly Sick Part Of Ryan's Plan To End Medicare That You May Not Have Heard About

The CBO Analysis of the Ryan, soon to be Republican, plan to end Medicare reveals something that's largely flying under the radar. Seniors won't be able to get his crummy vouchers when they are sixty-five they have to wait two more years, until they are sixty-seven. No Medicare, no voucher, no nothing until you are sixty-seven.

Ryan doesn't talk about it and it doesn't appear in the plan published on the Vouchercare website. One has to go to the Congressional Budget Office report to find it. And there you discover that under the Ryan/Republican plan
Starting in 2022, the age of eligibility for Medicare would increase by two months per year until it reached 67 in 2033.

That means that if you were born in 1966 or later you won't be eligible for diddlysquat until you are sixty-seven. No Medicare, no voucher, no nothing.

For those two years, seniors will be totally on their own. That means for those who are employed, if their employer offers insurance they'll be forced to work two more years unless they want to go broke trying to buy insurance in the open market. Alternatively they can go without insurance and pray they don't get sick. Those who are not working will truly be fending for themselves.

Ryan is keeping quiet about this but it is a big element of his savings. For guys like him, this plan is genius. Workers have to pay Medicare taxes for two more years before they can begin to draw any benefit. Sadly, it also means that more people will die before ever receiving Medicare. A boat load of Billionaire tax cuts will be financed with those Medicare taxes and by not having to make pesky payments to doctors for those two years.

Ending Medicare and substituting the voucher program is terrible. It's selfish and mean. But this, this is positively craven.

First, the voucher plan. It is unacceptable for four main reasons. First, in all likelihood it will be unworkable. Finding insurance companies to guarantee the elderly will be difficult if not impossible. Second, if any insurers participate the premiums they will charge will be far higher than the value of the vouchers. Third, the plan enriches insurance companies at the expense of seniors. Lastly and most importantly, as each year passes the burden of paying for care is increasingly shifted onto seniors. This happens because the value of the vouchers only increase with the inflation rate. Health care costs have been rising far above that rate and there is nothing in Ryan's plan to control costs. This is where Ryan saves the government billions, by transferring to seniors the ever increasing difference between the voucher and the insurance premiums.

All of that is bad enough. But the Republicans weren't satisfied. Ryan decided to save even more money to fund Billionaire tax cuts by telling people who are currently fifty-five that they are not only ineligible for Medicare, they can't even get vouchers when they reach sixty-five. No. They have to wait longer and if they were born in 1966 they'll have to wait a full two years longer.

Ryan was surely thinking that this shouldn't be an issue since the Social Security retirement age also increases to sixty-seven for younger Americans. But that is the problem with simplistic thinking. He doesn't appear to understand that while it may be hard to find a job and sometimes even to work after 65, it is near impossible to find health insurance at that age and totally impossible to find affordable insurance. That is, of course, unless you are part of the that upper 3% of the income scale. Even Reagan understood that point and the Medicare eligibility rate was not raised as part of the 1983 Social Security deal.

Also, while the 1983 Social Security law gradually raised the retirement age to 67 it still allows people to draw reduced benefits at 65 or even 62. That law only raised the age for full benefits. Under Ryan's plan a person between 65 and 67 gets nothing, no reduced Medicare, no reduced voucher, nothing.

The phrase "doughnut hole" is already taken. This hole in coverage is a chasm of suffering. We need to beat this like a drum.

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