Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan has wanted to privatize Medicare ever since he first went to Congress 18 years ago. Now, with a new president on deck, he sees his chance.
And just in case that “privatize” word feels a bit toxic, he has renamed the effort to kill the program, Medicare Phase Out. Don't be fooled; it is the same thing as privatization.
But something else may come up in Congress before Medicare Phase Out legislation that will make the first inroads into killing Medicare. Let me explain.
REPEAL AND REPLACE OBAMACARE
The president-elect appears to have backed off somewhat his campaign promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Now he says he wants to keep the pre-existing conditions provision along with one other that allows parents to keep their children on their coverage until the kids are age 26.
As we have learned in the past 19 months, it is impossible to know if what * says has any relationship to what he will do about anything. But until we know differently, we can only work with his statements.
So, in regard to repealing and replacing Obamacare (except for those two provisions), let us remind ourselves what Obamacare has done for Medicare beneficiaries:
• Thanks to Obamacare, the donut hole in Part D, the prescription drug plan, has been gradually closing and will be gone by the year 2020. This has already saved elders billions of dollars and will continue to do so.
• Also thanks to Obamacare, there are no copays for wellness visits to physicians and certain preventive services, among them annual flu shots, mammograms and colonoscopies.
• And a big one, Obamacare extended Medicare's solvency by more than a decade, until 2029, giving more time to figure out how to make the program permanently solvent.
If Obamacare is repealed and replaced, these benefits will disappear and more important for Ryan, he will have already made a major inroad into killing Medicare without even needing to make a targeted effort.
And, he is willing to lie to make Medicare Phase Out happen.
PAUL RYAN'S TACTICS FROM *'S PLAYBOOK
Here is an interview with Ryan from last week with host Brent Baier on Fox News - transcript and commentary from Talking Points Memo:
”What people don't realize,” Ryan told Baier, “is because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits.
“You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare.”
Now, here is editor of Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall, who has saved me hours of research in his ongoing attention to and coverage of Medicare's peril for which I am enormously grateful:
”First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress.” writes Marshall. “Precisely the opposite is true. And it's so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare's solvency by more than a decade. Ryan's claim is flat out false.
“Second, I've heard a few people say that it's not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare phase out. It IS 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It's on his website. It's explained explicitly right there.”
As the new administration prepares to take power in January, both health programs are in trouble and those who want to kill them will continue to lie. It is up to us to stem that tide and when the time comes to take action.
Meanwhile, keep your eye on Talking Points Memo, also known as TPM. Josh Marshall and his crew are doing a sensational job tracking this issue.
ONE BRIGHT SPOT
The bright spot in this scenario to trash both Obamacare and Medicare is that in addition to the 22 million people with Obamacare who like that pre-existing condition provision and 26-year-old children's coverage provision, there are an additional 56 million insured with Medicare who like that program – even love it.
With all those people, I suspect we, the American people, may have some leverage over this health coverage threat.
There is much more to know about it and plans to make but geez, this has been a hard week for most of us, working out how we feel and what to do about our new world order.
And I haven't made it any easier – the posts this week have been dense to wade through, including this one.
So let's give ourselves a break. There is a holiday coming up next week, time to relax a little – not that I won't be here on the usual days, I just won't ask as much of you or me for a few days.
OH, WAIT A MINUTE: I woke this morning to a pertinent Op-Ed from economist Paul Krugman in The New York Times. It is titled "The Medicare Killers" and you should read it. Here is the link.
If you don't subscribe to The Times or you have used up your monthly allotment of stories, email me (Contact link above) and I'll send the text to you. Well, I'll be out of the house today until mid-afternoon west coast time but after that I can do it.