Worse, it's MY Democrat.
Last week, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden joined Wisconsin Republican Senator Paul Ryan in unveiling an awful proposal to
preserve privatize Medicare.
Although the proposal is, as yet, short on details, here's the general idea of the Ryan/Wyden Plan as reported in the Washington Post last week:
”...a framework that would offer traditional, government-run Medicare as an option for future retirees along with a variety of private plans.
“Seniors would still receive a set amount of money from the government to buy insurance, as they would under the Medicare proposal Ryan included in the budget blueprint that passed the House last year.
“But the new approach would let that subsidy, known as premium support, rise or fall along with the actual cost of the policies — creating more protection for seniors and saving potentially far less in the budget.”
In a word: bullshit.
Medicare would “subsidize premiums charged by private insurers that care for beneficiaries under contract with the government.” The New York Times explained further:
”Congress would establish an insurance exchange for Medicare beneficiaries. Private plans would compete with the traditional Medicare program and would have to provide benefits of the same or greater value.”
In other words, it would turn Medicare into a public option and, eventually, destroy the program which has always been Ryan's and Republicans' goal. Paul N. Van de Water reports for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
”The proposal for Medicare premium support by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) differs in key respects from how many media reports are describing it.
“Despite claims to the contrary, it 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 Ryan/Wyden proposal is just another privatization scheme notes the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, “coupon care for seniors” in which the only winners would be private insurers who would be given permission to cherry pick the healthiest elders. The NCPSSM continues:
• “Beneficiaries would be forced to pay more for Medicare benefits because premiums would be indexed to the gross domestic product, plus 1 percent, which historically has risen far more slowly than health care costs.
• “The Ryan-Wyden plan could actually increase Medicare costs because it expands private Medicare plans that cost an average of 10 percent more than what the same coverage would cost in traditional Medicare.
• If younger retirees enter the new program and the oldest and sickest remain in traditional Medicare, the program will be faced with a pool of increasingly costly beneficiaries. Medicare spending would go up and seniors who remain in traditional Medicare would see their costs go up as well.”
Look, we know that for-profit medicine does not work. We have decades of experience culminating now in more that 50 million Americans with no health coverage along with higher infant mortality and lower life expectancy than all other developed countries. A 2010 study from Families USA reported in The New York Times estimated that
"...currently 68 adults under age 65 die every day because they don’t have coverage. Absent a significant change in coverage, the figure will climb to 84 by 2019, the study projects."
If the Ryan/Wyden proposal succeeds, we will be adding people older than 65 to that terrible statistic.
Senator Wyden, as you can imagine, is possibly the least popular member of his political party at the moment. As TPM reports:
”...the reaction from Democrats — both nameless, and on the record, has been severe.
“Two White House spokesmen — Jay Carney and Dan Pfeiffer — rejected the plan outright. Carney claimed the plan would 'end Medicare as we know it.'
“Leaving Wyden’s name out of it, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, '[Paul] Ryan’s latest Medicare plan is another example of GOP’s desire for Medicare, as Gingrich described, to wither on the vine.'”
“Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) — a top Dem on health care issues — lashed out: 'despite Wyden’s claims otherwise, the Wyden-Ryan plan ends Medicare as we know it, plain and simple.'”
Elders are getting it from all sides in Congress this season since Medicare is not the only elder program a Democrat is willing to sell out. Many more of them support the extension of the payroll tax holiday that weakens Social Security by tying its revenue to the general fund thereby making it possible for Congress to not reimburse the shortfall.
The one percent have no need for Social Security and Medicare. This is just another case of their handmaidens in Congress sticking it to the 99 percent – the oldest and most vulnerable of them this time.
Wyden is not up for re-election this year, but does he really believe we'll forgive this come 2016? I won't.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: My Mornings