Jeb Bush Wants to Eliminate Medicare

Social Security and Medicare have long been called the third rail of American politics. Rarely do politicians attack them because they are so wildly popular. So I’m a bit baffled that Jeb Bush has decided to come right out and say that Medicare should be phased out.

“The left needs to join the conversation, but they haven’t. I mean, when [Rep. Paul Ryan] came up with, one of his proposals as it relates to Medicare, the first thing I saw was a TV ad of a guy that looked just like Paul Ryan … that was pushing an elderly person off the cliff in a wheelchair. That’s their response.

“And I think we need to be vigilant about this and persuade people that our, when your volunteers go door to door, and they talk to people, people understand this. They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.”

The Affordable Care Act already reversed the trend that was predicted to leave Medicare bankrupt, extending its life for another couple decades. It wouldn’t be difficult to extend it much further with two simple reforms: means-testing for beneficiaries and lifting the $117,000 cap on income subject to the withholding taxes that support the program.

Politically, this is a really, really stupid move. It might appeal to those attending a Koch brothers event, but it’s going to send everyone running away in droves. And that’s especially true of seniors, who vote at a higher rate than any other age group. They’ve traditionally voted more Republican, but trying to get rid of Medicare is a good way to reverse that trend.

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  • John Pieret

    JEB! like Ryan before him is hoping that seniors will accept that their Medicare will be protected and only the young whippersnappers Medicare will be done away with. That way the seniors will keep voting Republican. I don’t think it will work that way. The Republicans’ own drumbeat that government can’t be trusted will make seniors wary of any changes to Medicare as just a prelude to taking it away from them too.

  • colnago80

    The Jebber would phase out Medicare by taking everyone under 55 off the program. What this means is that everyone under 55 would still be paying into the program to support the legacy recipients but would not be able to avail themselves of the program when they reach 65. That doesn’t seem to be a proposal that would appeal to those under 55 folks.

  • raven

    I keep saying, John Ellis Bush is dumb!!! As dumb as his brother George. And just as viscious.

    1. As Ed points out, Medicare is wildly popular especially among the Tea Party group, old white people. It is also a very successful program

    2. And everyone knows it is the third rail of politics. John Ellis is tone deaf. This is what happens when you are born to great wealth and aren’t very bright.

    It’s not his first simple minded mistake. He also wants to start a war in the middle east, not realizing that the Iraq disaster wasn’t too successful or popular.

    3. Phasing out Medicare just sets us up for another war. Generational war. We take Medicare away from out kids. Our kids retaliate by sending us to the worst nursing home they can find.

    It’s all very…xian. Maximum misery for everyone who isn’t heir to a vast fortune they had no part in accumulating.

  • D. C. Sessions

    It wouldn’t be difficult to extend it much further with two simple reforms: means-testing for beneficiaries

    No — means-testing is a step that was rejected right from the beginning for two simple reasons:

    1) It wouldn’t save much money, might even be a loser thanks to the administrative overhead.

    2) It turns Social Security into “welfare for geezers.” And that opens it up to the usual attacks on welfare that work so well.

    The idea of means testing was considered from Day One and rejected for that very reason.

  • colnago80

    Re raven @ #3

    His behavior during the Schiavo brouhaha demonstrates his viciousness, particularly with his joining in the smear campaign against Michael Schiavo, led by the Schindlers and terrorist Randall Terry. He contemplated sending in National Guard troops, as recommended by Terry, to spirit Terri Schiavo out of the hospital where she was “living” which only fell through when he was told that if she died during the kidnapping, he could be charged with murder. All together, a despicable excuse for a human being. Of course, you won’t read any of this in the lamestream media.

  • raven

    Just for fun, I looked up when Medicare runs out of money.

    Main Medicare fund will run out of money in 2030- trustees …

    www. reuters. com/…/usa-fiscal-health-idUSL2N0Q310320140728

    Jul 28, 2014 – Depletion of the Medicare and Social Security trust funds does not mean that all benefits would stop. At the current rate of payroll tax collections, Medicare would be able to pay about 85 percent of costs in 2030, declining to 75 percent by 2050.

    1. It gets low in 2030.

    In political terms this is more or less forever!!! Our planning horizon is one election cycle of 2 years.

    2. The usual test is will these programs last another 10 years. Planning beyond that isn’t too feasible because things change. And not always for the worst.

    2030 is so far out that minor changes now would make a huge difference later. What is preventing this is the GOP, who block whatever they can in an attempt to make Obama look bad.

    3. The ACA among its successes did extend Medicare by 6 years.

    4.. I don’t know why the fundie xians care anyway. Jesus the sky fairy is supposed to come back any day now, kill everyone, and destroy the earth.

    According to their leaders, jesus will be here in two months, September 28 is the Death of Everything date. So enjoy your last summer.

  • raven

    …and terrorist Randall Terry.

    Anyone who listens to Randall Terry shows astonishingly poor judgement.

    Terry called for the assassination of MD’s and the bombing of family planning centers. His followers then went out and killed 8 doctors and bombed dozens of clinics.

  • raven

    Randall Terry:

    I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good. … Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.

    Fuck you Randall Terry.

    This is one of John Ellis Bush’s buddies.

  • cptdoom

    What Bush fails to understand is that there was no market for health insurance for the elderly before Medicare – except for the very rich, so privatizing the system or creating a voucher system may very well leave most seniors with no options whatsoever. Perhaps that’s because the very notion of health “insurance” is an oxymoron (and I say this both as an economist and someone who works in the healthcare industry). Insurance is for rare, unpredictable and costly events. You basically are betting one of these events will happen and the insurance broker is betting it won’t. Health care is common, the need for it is completely predictable and the cost of it can largely be managed through comprehensive preventive care and lifestyle changes. Health care is also a public good, because we all benefit from a healthy population, like we benefit from a healthy environment, but the value of those benefits is very difficult for consumers to estimate, so we undervalue them. As anyone who didn’t sleep through Econ 101 should know, markets are exceedingly bad at distributing public goods; that’s part of the reason we have a government. All the other first world countries have figured this out and created a national health care coverage system of some sore. We’re the only ones still trying to use the market. What we should be doing is expanding Medicare to cover all ages.

  • colnago80

    Re cptdoom @ #@9

    That’s Socialism don’t you know. Can’t have Socialism in the US of A, it’s un-American! End snark.

  • Johnny Vector

    D.C. Sessions @ 4 corrects Ed about means testing. Let me here correct him about his other proposal. Medicare taxes are not capped. Medicare is paid for by the HI trust fund, funded by payroll taxes, and by the SMI trust fund, which is funded directly by congress. “After 1993, there has been no limitation on HI-taxable earnings.”

    He is probably thinking of OASDI, the other part of Social Security. That cap should be removed as well, but it doesn’t affect Medicare.

  • theguy

    I also think that means-testing Medicare is a bad idea. Just my $.02. If Medicare is partly funded by payroll taxes, then as long as people continue to work and pay taxes, there will always be some level of Medicare benefits available. (Although if payroll taxes were the only way to pay for Medicare, then eventually we would have means testing or reduced benefits). Jeb Bush is wrong to say that it’s a choice between his proposal and “nothing.”

  • LightningRose

    JEB! is right. We should do away with Medicare. And the ACA. And Medicaid. And all VA medical services*.

    All of these can, and should be, replaced with a single payer system paid for with progressive taxes. Canada, UK, or France**, take your pick as the model and get with it.

    *) Veterans may still need access to specialized services such as no out of pocket cost artificial limbs that may not available to the general public.

    **) I believe France has a modest co-pay for all medical services. Some argue this helps discourage un-needed doctor/hospital visits. I believe no one should be turned away from needed medical or dental care for lack of money.

  • Dr X

    Schiavo. Forgot about that. They protect the not born and the brain dead. If you have anything resembling human consciousness, you’re shit out of luck.

  • Gregory in Seattle

    I am reminded of a video of an early Tea Party rally, where a whole bunch of people — all white, of course, and mostly elderly — were screaming and ranting against the idea of “socialized medicine.” A young woman was interviewing the people there, asking them about their positions and getting on tape their angry denouncements about how socialized medicine and single payer insurance will utterly destroy everything good about America. When the interviewer pointed out that the Veterans’ Administration hospitals were nationalized medicine — hospitals run by, and staff employed by, the federal government — and that Medicare was a single-payer system, the TPers started screaming about how the government would be killing them if the VA and Medicare were to be dismantled.

    Given that kind of doublethink among what is left of the Republican base, I really don’t think this will work out well for Bush.

  • DaveL

    Medicare should be passed out – in favor of a universal single- payer system. Hell, we already cover virtually all the highest-risk and lowest-income groups with public programs in some form, why not go whole hog?

  • lorn

    The right is nothing if not consistent in their long term goals. They have been against the New Deal and Great Society from day one and they will take every opportunity to deconstruction those reforms. Jeb won’t speak of deconstructing Medicare in terms of the wider goals but, true to form for conservatives everywhere, he has his eyes on the prize and can be counted upon to advance the ball in that direction whenever politically practicable to do so.

    Try to keep this is context. The New Deal, and capitalism in general playing nice with labor and consumers, was part of a series of concessions made then the American Communist Party was the third largest political party, the Russians were a superpower, and Socialism was a viable political alternative. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia lost it economic footing (with some western help) the counterbalancing effect of an alternative system was lost. Within the ranks of hyper-capitalists and multi-national financiers the view is that the gloves can come off. We are getting capitalism good and hard, and increasingly unmoderated by socialist sentiment and protections for those less well off.

    When the wealthy speak of the good old days they are speaking of days when capital was king and labor took the deal it was offered. It was those socialist tendencies and sentiment that allowed the creation of good public schools, unions, regulation of business, and enforcement of rules on those at the top. Without that sentiment and set-aside, there is no middle class. The wealth dynasties want to go back to the good old days, before the existence of an political/economic alternative forced them to moderate their behaviors and curb their excesses. Before they allowed the unwashed masses to think that they were in any way equals.

  • D. C. Sessions

    They protect the not born and the brain dead. If you have anything resembling human consciousness, you’re shit out of luck.

    Which makes sense. They need to reserve those benefits for their own people.

  • raven

    Without that sentiment and set-aside, there is no middle class.

    The US middle class has been shrinking for decades.

    Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s failed project, is the leading state for such.

    Hard to say how bad it gets before the peasants grab their pitchforks and torches and storm the castle. Again. I’m guessing a few generations.

  • LykeX

    The wealth dynasties want to go back to the good old days, before the existence of an political/economic alternative forced them to moderate their behaviors and curb their excesses. Before they allowed the unwashed masses to think that they were in any way equals.

    Sounds about right. At least, if that’s not their objective, then you certainly can’t tell from the way they’re behaving.

  • raven

    The Shrinking Middle Class, Mapped State by State

    www. pewtrusts. org/…/the-shrinking-middle-cl…

    Mar 19, 2015 – The middle class has shrunk since 2000 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a Stateline analysis.

    From a reputable source.

    I’d like to see a lot longer term analysis but couldn’t find one quickly.

  • gerryl

    There is already a form of means testing for Medicare in place. It’s called IRMAA. As your income goes up ($85k is the first cutoff for single people) you pay more in premiums to receive Part B. And it goes up at each band when you go $1 over the limit (i.e., not progressive): 50% increase, 100% increase, etc. The IRMAA increase applies to Part D as well.

    People who have saved throughout their work lives and have healthy traditional IRAs are likely to be surprised by a sudden increase in Medicare premiums as they get into their 80s and their RMDs (required minimum distributions) start swelling.

  • dmcclean

    Expanding means testing is, in my opinion, a bad idea. One of the reasons the program has support is that everyone gets it. Means testing also requires spending money on means testing, and hearing endless griping about fraud and abuse no matter how much you spend on rooting it out.

    I would also advocate eliminating means testing for SNAP for largely the same reasons.