Every time Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wi) and just about any other Republican Congressperson and a large number of media pundits talk about Ryan's proposal to replace Medicare with a voucher program, they point out first and foremost that it will not affect people 55 and older.
The idea behind this statement is to reassure us old folks – you know, the ones who vote in much larger numbers than younger age groups – that we will be able to keep the current, traditional Medicare program.
Meanwhile, the estimated costs to younger individual retirees under the Ryan voucher plan keep coming in.
Last month, Representative George Miller (D-Ca) discussed one report [pdf] from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) which calculated how much those younger workers would need to save to be able to afford private health coverage in retirement under Ryan's voucher system. Here is the CEPR chart:
As Representative Miller, who is chair of House Committee on Education and the Workforce, points out on his committee webpage, about half of all workers have no retirement savings and:
”Since the voucher’s value relative to health care costs would decrease over time and private insurance costs are higher than traditional Medicare, seniors retiring in 2022 under the Republican plan would pay much higher costs than under current law.”
No kidding. Take a look at those numbers again. What average worker can even hope to save that much. Some commentators take issue with the CEPR numbers, but few argue that the cost to retirees under the Ryan plan are unaffordable for most people and gets worse over time.
In polls since Representative Ryan released his voucher plan, a large majority of people 65 and older oppose it and no wonder. This is an indisputable case of “listen to your elders” because we've been there. We know what it cost and what it was like dealing with private insurers all our lives, and we know what it's like with Medicare. The program isn't perfect, but the improvement over private insurance is immeasurable.
Ryan's is a terrible, immoral plan that would either impoverish future elders or force them to go without adequate health care in their old age. But Ryan's and others' repeated appeal to current elders that we're “safe” from this travesty says volumes about what they think of old people, which is this:
The culture inside Washington is so debased now that they believe we, like they, will betray our children's and grandchildren's future as long as we've got ours.
I am sickened that this argument is conventional wisdom among Republicans on Capitol Hill and that much of the media goes along with it.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Time Confusion