Paul Ryan Doesn't Want to Kill Medicare, Just Rough It Up a Bit

Politics & Views 20

ohio medicare protestIt appears that one of the primary reasons Democrats are so tickled by the selection of Congressman Ryan as Governor Romney's vice presidential pick is that "he's known as the 'Kill Medicare!' guy." In 2008, Senator McCain creamed President Obama in the 65+ demographic. With Ryan on the Republican ticket, Obama might have a fighting chance with seniors this year.

That's one assumption. The other assumption is that Ryan (and by extension, Romney -- is that the tail wagging the dog, I see?) really intends to purposefully kill Medicare.

Let's back up. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed Ryan's 2010 budget proposal at Ryan's request. The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) summarized that analysis in a white paper, published in April 2011. The analysis isn't pretty, and it's made for a great Democratic talking point.

In 2022, the projected cost of purchasing a Medicare equivalent plan is equal to 35 percent of the median 65-year-old’s income. By 2050 the cost is projected to rise to 68 percent of the median 65-year-old’s income...[The projected payment to buy a Medicare equivalent policy] would be equal to 200 percent of the income of the median 85-year-old.

Looks terrible, right?

Ryan has since revised his budget proposal, both in 2011 and again this year. CBO's most recent analysis, from Q1 2012, is inconclusive. But even the detailed 2011 CBO analysis of Ryan's 2010 budget admits that projections are "highly uncertain, particularly in the longer term." Everybody's crystal ball is on the blink.

That's really the crux of the matter here. Not simply that we can't accurately predict dollar figures ten, twenty, or forty years out, but that we can't accurately predict what our budgetary priorities will be in the future.

If you read the portions of Ryan's FY12 budget proposal that deal with Medicare, it's clear that (on the surface, at least) his intent is to offer a fiscally viable means of continuing Medicare.

[T]his budget will save Medicare for future generations, protecting those in and near retirement from any changes while forging for younger workers a Medicare program modeled on the system of affordable, quality health coverage options now enjoyed by members of Congress.

…This is not a voucher program, but rather a premium-support model. A Medicare premium-support payment would be paid, by Medicare, to the plan chosen by the beneficiary, subsidizing its cost.

Not so terrible, right?

Of course, there's unsubstantiated partisan jabs in the Ryan budget proposal -- specifically the claim that the ACA "raids" Medicare (refuted by -- but that's the job of politicians, to compare and contrast themselves with the other party. But Ryan supporters and dissenters alike ought to read his proposal more closely before making broad statements about his intentions. Same goes for the ACA.

Back to the viability of the budget proposal. If CBO can't make any definitive predictions as to whether this specific plan will succeed or not, I'm wary of anybody on either side of the aisle who claims that they can.

Can we save Medicare, as both sides purport to want to do? Of course! We can do anything if it's important enough in relation to other competing budgetary priorities.

But therein lies the problem. Our priorities as a nation shift as capriciously as those of a four-year-old, and we protest just as loudly when we get what we supposedly wanted and it turns out to be not at all what we wanted. Conversely, we get so wrapped up in opposing what the other guy supposedly stands for that we're blinded to the points on which we agree.

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other writers have to say, see Should Medicare Be Replaced by Subsidies?

Image via ProgressOhio/Flickr

2012 election, barack obama, economy, election, health care, in the news, mitt romney, politics


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You do realize that Ryan is not running for president don't you? Why would you waste a whole post about "his" ideals? It should be Romney's plans you write about. People must really be scared to be giving this man this much attention. 

right... rightside

Our priorities as a nation shift as capriciously as those of a four-year-old,

Actually, the priorities of the LEFT shift as capriciously as those of a four year oldThe priorities of the grown-ups of the nation are simple - stop spending money we don't have.  Right now.  Not in 10, 20, or 30 years.  Cut spending right now - not in 10, 20 or 30 years.  And not the Liberal definition of "cut spending", which involves taking money from one program and funneling it to a different program, and calling that know, like taking $700,000,000,000 out of the Medicare budget to fund Obamacare.

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

Medicare is a disaster right now. More and more doctors are dropping out of it. That means fewer doctors available to seniors. Now add in HCAHPS which reduces medicare reimbursement to providers drastically. That's taking billions away from doctors and hospitals. That means hospitals on the brink will go under if they haven't already. What good is medicare when the doctors and hospitals no longer accept it? It will become useless. It needs to change.


People don't want to admit to that HockeyMom. I've been saying that for 6 months. I live in a rural farming community and my elderly neighbors have to travel a LONG way, 60 miles round trip, to use Medicare and most of them don't drive anymore. There are a lot of them who just pay when they go so they can keep their doctors. I know of one person who moved into a "community center" just so she could have the same doctor. What's happening to them is scary and sad but everyone who is an Obama lover won't admit this isn't working. It's got to change no matter who's in charge but it can't be what it is now. There will be no more small town clinics in the near future. Who's defending the seniors now?

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

Jafe - I know, and its scary. Do you know if HCAHPS hit your area yet?


I don't know HockeyMom.

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

Since I'm in the field, I'm interested to see how fast the negative impact of this will hit. Or when the public will start to see it. Its going to break the back of the healthcare system.


The thing is when you tell people that not all clinics, hospitals and such don't accept it, they don't believe you. My mom thinks it's illegal not to accept it but she's also got Blue Cross and Blue Shield as a supplement so it hasn't affected her yet. She'll still vote for Obama. We cancel eat other out!!! The die hards who haven't been affected just think everything is rosy. Our insurance as a small business owner has really gone down hill too. We had better insurance for our employees BEFORE we HAD to have it for them!

Hocke... HockeyMomNJ

Yes, well hcahps will magnify the problems severely. In short, its the new fee reimbursement that medicare will pay providers for services. So let's say medicare pays 80% out of the bill - now under hcahps, they will pay 50% and the other 30% needs to be "earned". The patient will rate it to decide if they earn it or not. Now, it may seem like a good idea - if healthcare wasn't already a mess. Hospitals are already overcrowded and understaffed. Think about the last time you were in a hospital, did you see many happy people there? Picture patients saying "well that witch nurse didn't bring my water pitcher fast enough". Providers are gonna lose billions...............

The idea is like a Monet - from far away it looks good but up close its a big ol' mess!!

wamom223 wamom223

Wow another blog bashing Ryan's plan, what a shocker!   Out of curiosity when are you guys going to critique Obama's plan?  Oh thats right because he doesn't have one.  Jafe my Grandma is pissed at Obama and the changes to Medicare and she is a life long democrat.  I am so sick of hearing that Obamacare raiding Medicare's funds is a good thing.  I guess what I'm learning from the blogs and comments on the left here is that you people are perfectly happy to be  useful idiots and there is no logic to save you.  

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