Speaker Paul Ryan will try to privatize Medicare

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will try again to privatize Medicare.

President-elect Donald Trump said during the campaign that he will protect Medicare as it is.

Speaker Paul Ryan

Speaker Paul Ryan

But Ryan doesn’t seem to expect a fight with Trump.  Why not?  Does he have reason to believe that Trump didn’t mean what he said?  Reporters need to press Trump to declare where he stands.

Grass-roots advocates should not stand by idly and assume the Democrats in Congress will defend Medicare.  They should be letting their congressional representatives and Senators know that tampering with Medicare is unacceptable.

I give Ryan and the Tea Party Republicans credit.  They never give up pushing for their goals.  They take ideas that seem radical and make them mainstream.

And they strike when the iron is hot!  They never hesitate to use whatever power they have to advance their agenda.

Liberals and progressives can learn from their example.  Instead of just passively trying to preserve Medicare and also Obamacare as they are, they should be demanding a Medicare-for-all system to replace Obamacare.

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Ryan said his reform is needed to prevent the Medicare trust fund from going bankrupt in 2021.  But it wouldn’t really go bankrupt.

Most of Medicare is paid for through payroll taxes.  Long ago the President and Congress foresaw that existing payroll taxes wouldn’t be enough to finance the retirement of the Baby Boom generation, so they imposed additional taxes that were invested in Treasury bonds to provide a financial cushion.  Now that fund is being drawn down, just as planned.

Under Ryan’s proposal, people like me who already receive Medicare benefits would get to keep them.  But people currently in the work force would be given only “premium support” for buying private insurance.  The word “support” means the subsidy wouldn’t cover the whole cost of the premium.

One of Ryan’s complaints about Medicare is that it hasn’t prevented the cost of medical care from going up.  That’s true, but Medicare costs have risen more slowly than the cost of for-profit medical insurance.

Another is that there is an administrative board that sets limits on Medicare reimbursements.   As if for-profit insurance companies set no limits on payouts!

He would trust the forces of competition and the market to keep premiums low and the quality of care high—although, by his own admission, such forces haven’t worked under Obamacare.

I admit there is an inherent problem with the cost of medical care.   The percentage of us old people is growing, and there is no limit, except a financial limit, on what can be spent on medical care.

But this isn’t a problem that is solved by privatization, unless you think rationing medical care according to wealth is a problem.

Obamacare is a system in which people are forced to buy private insurance, no matter how bad.  Ryan’s plan would be a system in which people are forced to depend on private insurance, no matter how bad (although, to be fair, his plan allows you to bypass insurance and just pay medical bills directly).

By dividing old people like me from those who now are younger, Ryan would undermine support for the system as a whole.  Young people would have no reason to give me benefits they’re not going to get themselves.   Old people

Democrats, liberals and senior citizen advocates should not try to hold the balance of power between Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans.  They should throw their support to the preceived lesser evil.  They should use this opportunity to advocate for what older Americans really need.

LINKS

Health Care – Paul Ryan.   You need skill or help in decoding weasel words to understand this.   Josh Marshall, Michael Hiltzik and Ryan Cooper can help.

Paul Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017 by Josh Marshall for Talking Points Memo.

Paul Ryan is determined to gut Medicare | This time he might succeed by Michael Hiltzik for the Los Angeles Times.

Hey, Trump voters! Paul Ryan is already coming for your Medicare by Ryan Cooper for The Week.

Senate Finance Chair Eyes Medicare Changes But Is Vague on Specifics by Josh Marshall for Talking Points Memo.   Senator Orrin Hatch is reluctant to join Ryan without Democratic support.

Medicare: Insolvency Projections by Patricia A. David for the Congressional Research Service.

The Facts on Medicare Spending and Financing by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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