Demagoguing Medicare reform proposals. From the Washington Post fact checker:
“The Republicans have a plan to end Medicare as we know it. What they would do is they would take the people who are younger than 55 years old today and tell them, ‘You know what? You’re on your own. Go and find private health insurance in the health-care insurance market. We’re going to throw you to the wolves and allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to give you X amount of dollars and you figure it out.’ ”
— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, May 29, 2011
Something about the debate over Medicare prompts eye-popping rhetoric. A few weeks ago, it was Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying the Republican plan for Medicare would let cancer patients “die sooner.” This weekend, on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Wasserman Schultz said Republicans would “throw you to the wolves.”
We’ve previously taken Republicans to task for claiming their plan is “a system just like members of Congress and federal employees have.” Not so. We also criticized Sebelius for her assertion. So where does the DNC leader stand in this collection of conflicting claims?
The current Medicare system, in place since the mid-1960s, is essentially a government-run health care program, with hospital and doctors fees paid by the government, though beneficiaries also pay premiums for some services as well as deductibles and coinsurance. The new system envisioned by House Republicans would transform Medicare into a competitive market for people who are now younger than 55.
Retirees would get from the government what Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, calls “premium support” — a set payment adjusted to inflation; they would use that money to pick from a range of plans offered by insurance companies through what is termed a Medicare exchange. Democrats tend to refer to this payment by the more ominous-sounding word “voucher.”Wasserman Schultz did not say voucher, but her statement suggests that people would be handed a check (“X number of dollars”) and then have to go out and find a plan that they can afford. She also said the plan would “allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions.”
Neither of those claims are true. The system as envisioned by Republicans would operate much like the Medicare prescription drug plan currently does. The government would not give people a check or anything like that; the government would handle the funds, just as they do under the drug plan. As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said when it examined the plan, “The premium support payments would go directly from the government to the plans that people selected.”
Meanwhile, different plans approved by Medicare would compete for business, as under the drug plan. Moreover, the GOP proposal specifically says that to participate in the Medicare exchange, insurance companies would have to accept all retirees.
Actually, the proposal sounds like the Democrats’ health care program that everyone will be on! If that is so, why are (1) Republicans for it, and (2) why are Democrats against it?