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GOP Proposes Gutting Medicare

By The Reverend Published: January 28, 2011

National Journal

House GOP members are considering a measure to convert the government-backed Medicare program into a voucher system. The measure would be part of the House budget, which will be shaped next month. Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas said the he expects Republicans to support the provision, which would require Medicare to give seniors an allotment of money to buy private coverage starting in 2021. The eligibility age would also be raised, from 65 to 69.

Jeb Hensarling has never been accused of being the sharpest tool in the Republican toolbox. That may be why, after looking at what the National Journal reported yesterday, I found myself asking...'how in the hell is that going to solve any financial shortfall problems facing Medicare?'

Let's consider Jeb's, I think, cabbage-headed idea.

First, insurance is a form of socialism. What I mean is that health insurance companies, who actually provide no service or product, gather monies from a pool of customers who buy health insurance policies. Insurance policies are basically a promise to pay for something that hasn't happened yet. When one of the policy pool members needs medical care, it is the money paid to insurance companies from premiums paid regularly by all customers which goes to pay for the medical care for an individual pool member.

It is the very definition of socialism.

Quick aside: Because insurance is fundamentally socialistic and always will remain that way....the smartest mathematical approach to insurance is to have one huge pool which includes everyone. This is why I support single payer Medicare for all Americans.

Second, it is the capitalistic job of for-profit health insurance company leaders to maximize shareholder profits. Because that is true, health insurance companies spend a great deal of time, effort and money culling costly customers, denying coverage wherever they can, and of course, raising policy prices. All of this to make the pool of policy-holding customers more productive for the health insurance company.

With that prefacing.....for-profit health insurance companies do not want to insure costly, older Americans. The risk is too high. The policies would be entirely unaffordable. Older Americans need more, and more costly, health care than any other demographic by far. That is the very reason why the U.S. government placed all seniors into one big not-for-profit insurance pool 45 years ago....what we call Medicare.

Set aside for a moment Jeb Hensarling's ridiculous and cruel notion of raising Medicare age eligibility from 65 to 69. All that will do is make more seniors homeless and bankrupt.

But consider the House GOP's idea to replace traditional single-payer-for-all-seniors Medicare with vouchers....government-issued coupons.....with which they can purchase for-profit health care from, theoretically, a long list of insurers.

How in the hell would such a replacement plan save the government any money?

What is being suggested by cerebrally-challenged Republicans is that for-profit health insurers would compete for these new, older customers. The very customers health insurers don't want as their customers right now because those customers are not cost effective. Profits would be impossible to make unless the health policy prices for seniors soared much, much higher than traditional Medicare.

Higher costs for health care....especially higher Medicare costs....is the problem the country is facing. For-profit voucherizing of Medicare would result in even higher prices and/or less benefits.

And that is exactly what Paul Ryan's (R-WI) laughable Roadmap proposes to do....

Think Progress

Hensarling’s proposal appears to be along the lines of House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) “Roadmap For America’s Future Act,” which would involve the most dramatic cuts to Medicare the program has ever seen. Under the Ryan plan, “Medicare would be cut 76 percent below its projected size under current policies, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In other words, by 2080, the vouchers that would replace Medicare would receive one-quarter of the resources that Medicare would otherwise use."

Republicans are proposing the privatizing of Medicare. In this plan of theirs, Medicare would be cut by 76% over the next 70 years. In effect, future seniors would be paying for all but 25% of their health care out of their own pockets.

This reminds me of the often-mocked Alan Grayson comment about what Republicans notion of health care is....."If you get sick....die quickly." Seems appropriate in light of Jeb Hensarling and Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare.

My question is simple. How does privatizing Medicare solve the problem of costly medical care?

It appears as if the GOP answer is, it doesn't.

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