The Republicans will not ever give up their goal to kill Medicare. Not ever. Whatever they call it, however they dress it up, it's really privatization designed to kill Medicare.
(By the way, they've got a new name for it this time around - "premium support" but it means vouchers and that means privatization.)
Last year, it was Republican
Senator Representative Paul Ryan's draconian voucher program. A few months after that plan died on arrival Ryan tried a second voucher idea, hooking up with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (embarrassingly, of my own state) to make it look kinder and gentler.
That one died too.
Now, in less than one year, there is a third variant on the idea of Medicare voucher programs – this one from Senators Tom Coburn (R-Ok) and Richard Burr (R-NC) who gave it the Orwellian title of Seniors Choice Act.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) carefully explains that the Burr/Coburn plans would provide seniors a voucher for their health care, a plan that would
• shift a growing share of Medicare costs to beneficiaries without reducing overall costs in the program• undermine traditional Medicare
• leave millions of seniors without health coverage in retirement
• raise premiums for middle-class retirees
Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future, says the same thing more bluntly:
“Burr and Coburn want you to believe that they can raise the Medicare eligibility age, make you pay more in premiums, turn your health care over to the same insurers that are bankrupting you before you're sixty-five (if you're lucky enough to have insurance) - and that somehow you'll save money!”
More from Max Richtman, president and CEO of NCPSSM:
“This latest Medicare privatization scheme is nothing more than the GOP/Ryan plan on steroids,” he writes. “Not only does it promise savings that most private insurers have never achieved in providing coverage to seniors, it also delays health care coverage to age 67, and raises premiums for millions of American retirees...
“This legislation would take us back to the days when America’s aged and infirm were forced to find health insurance in a private marketplace that wouldn’t serve them because it simply wasn’t profitable.”
If you are interested, there are many more details and explanations at those links above. But I have two important things to say about this latest “kill Medicare” bill.
First, Republicans keep picking away at Medicare, making it more acceptable with each assault to talk out loud about reducing the amount of health care elders can have. Their plans include the same two, tired, unworkable ideas about how to do this: turn coverage over to private insurers (we all know how well that has succeeded with more than 50 million uninsured) and by pricing coverage out of elders' reach.
Meanwhile, Democrats are complicit by doing absolutely nothing.
They do not push back against Republican plans. They do not offer ideas of their own to reign in health care costs. And they do not promote single-payer, universal care for everyone that works quite well in all other developed nations.
They, the Democrats, do nothing.
Second, all these Republican plans involve giving elders vouchers with which to purchase private coverage. In addition to the economic problems with this approach, it adds a layer of difficulty that for some elders is insurmountable because it works like the prescription drug plan (Part D). Here's what I mean:
Because I do not take any prescription drugs and because there is no way on earth to predict what prescription drugs I might need in the future, I purchase the cheapest Part D plan each year and hope that should I need one or more prescription drugs in the year, it will be in my insurance carrier's formulary.
If not, I will have to pay full price until the next January when I can purchase a new Part D plan.
Even so and even with the spread sheet of possible policies provided at medicare.gov, it is a time-consuming chore trying to compare premiums, co-pays and deductibles to make the most economical choice.
And that is only drugs. Overall health coverage has maybe a hundred more variables to consider and they are always hard to match up against one another.
And what if you're sick? Or what if you are the caregiver for an ailing parent or spouse? Or what if you're just a little bit slower to catch on these days that you used to be?
Choosing then becomes a terrible, time-consuming, frightening burden that makes the title of the Coburn/Burr plan - Seniors Choice Act – a demonic, sick joke.
This plan won't go any further than the first two from last year, but I tell you about it because we must pay attention. If we don't, they will slip one of these past us one day.
Now, because you've been good enough to sit through this rather dry diatribe, here is your reward: Jon Stewart of The Daily Show Monday night taking on the Catholic bishops and birth control.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: For the Love of a Cousin