Nancy Pelosi may not have known what was in Obamacare until it passed, but one thing everyone did know was that it would be paid for in large part by cutting more than $500 billion from Medicare over 10 years. Some estimates have that figure as high as $800 billion.
The President performed one of his worst sales jobs ever in making the claim that slashing Medicare spending is required in order to save it. The American people and Republicans in Congress didn’t buy it, but that hardly mattered. Democrats in Congress not only swallowed the whole package, they also took the undercoating and rust proofing.
America’s seniors are rightfully angry seeing Medicare gutted after a lifetime of paying in to the system. As the most informed group of voters, the nation’s elderly understand that Medicare is rapidly headed toward insolvency, with the number of retirees doubling in the next generation from 40 million to 80 million, and the ratio of workers paying into the system for each Medicare recipient cut by a third.
Eyes begin to glaze over when reviewing the numbers for any government entitlement program, but the reality beyond dispute is that Medicare is going broke fast. The current Administration’s answer will only accelerate rationing, provide fewer services and healthcare options and chase the best doctors out of the program completely.
Medicare played a dominant role in the November elections where seniors made up 23 percent of the electorate and swept the Democrats from control of Congress. But it is America’s younger workers, those under the age of 55, who stand to lose even more in Washington’s Medicare shell game.
Big government has fumbled the Medicare football badly, perhaps even worse than in its management of our nation’s budget and trillions of dollars of debt. When government is and continues to be the problem, it is often best to look for answers in the free market.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee, has proposed a novel — and by Washington standards, revolutionary — way to both preserve Medicare for today’s seniors as well as ensure solvency for America’s younger workers in the form of health care vouchers that let Medicare recipients shop for the plans and services they need.
Under Ryan’s plan, those aged 55 and older keep all their Medicare benefits as currently established. The new system wouldn’t kick in until those now 54 and younger become eligible for Medicare at age 65. Ryan’s “Roadmap” as it is called, does several critical things for both today’s seniors and tomorrow’s future Medicare recipients.
First, it keeps Medicare solvent without rationing care for those now in the program. There will be little or no incentive for government bureaucrats to deny access to life-saving drugs, for example, as the FDA recently did with the anti-cancer drug Avastin.
Second, it shifts the focus of power from Washington to individual consumers, who will spend their voucher in an open, competitive market that will offer more choices, better products and have incentives to lower costs. The free market has worked everywhere it has been tried. It certainly will do a better job of serving the needs of seniors’ health care than the current rickety Medicare system of today which is going broke.
Third, reforming Medicare makes it possible to eliminate the deficit and puts our nation as a whole back on a path to solvency by offering far more options and flexibility whereas today’s system will lead to nothing but more and more rationing.
Seniors and seniors-to-be have much to lose if Medicare is not reformed and is instead cut to pave the way for a much, much bigger entitlement program. The Ryan Roadmap to Medicare solvency is the right course that protects America’s seniors and ensures there is a Medicare program still in place for future generations.
Jim Martin, 75, is Chairman of 60 Plus Association and worked on Capitol Hill in 1965 when Medicare passed. Amy Frederick, 33, is President of 60 Plus and looks at Medicare reform from a younger perspective. 60 Plus is in its 19th year relies on more than seven million seniors for support.