Friday, April 15, 2011
Cleaver:Ryan plan will increase health care costs
This afternoon, it was my pleasure to speak with 11,268 senior citizens in our community on a tele-town hall regarding the plans passed today by House Republicans to dramatically change the Medicare program.
Joining me on the call was expert Marc Steinberg, the Deputy Director of Health Policy at FamiliesUSA. For 25 years, FamiliesUSA has served as a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to studying policy issues and advocating for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.
We have used tele-town halls over the last few years to reach and have a conversation with large numbers of constituents. Each time, I am gratified by the hundreds and often thousands of you who stay on the line to listen to one another as we work through the difficult challenges facing our nation.
Today’s call was no different.
Like me, many of you have serious concerns about plans to privatize Medicare. The Republican budget, passed today, would end Medicare as we know it now and replace it with a voucher system where seniors go out into the private market to buy their own health insurance. As I shared with thousands of seniors on the phone this afternoon, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) states that, under the House Republican plan, seniors “would bear a much larger share of their health care costs than they would under the traditional program.”
According to the non-partisan CBO, the plan passed by Republicans today would more than double the typical senior’s out-of-pocket health care spending by 2022, compared to what their costs would be under traditional Medicare – increasing their out-of-pocket costs by more than $6,000. In addition, according to CBO, by 2030, the GOP plan would nearly triple the typical senior’s out-of-pocket spending.
Under the House Republican plan, everyone currently under age 55 would miss out on Medicare but would be enrolled in this new, yet to be formed, voucher system.
But there are further concerns for both seniors and the nation’s fiscal health under this plan. Unlike the actions taken last year in the Affordable Care Act, the measure passed today would increase health costs across the board for two reasons: a private health insurance plan covering the standardized benefit would be more expensive than traditional Medicare; and 2) as the CBO points out, “the government’s contribution would grow more slowly than health care costs, leaving more for beneficiaries to pay.”
As it was clear on today’s phone call, seniors are concerned about the uncertainty they would face under the House Republicans’ plan; private insurers would have flexibility -- to limit benefits, change co-payment arrangements, change which doctors are in their network, and manage utilization – that does not exist in traditional Medicare. These changes would be great for businesses--and very dangerous for seniors who depend on the coverage they receive through Medicare.
Under the House Republicans’ plan, the Medicare payroll taxes a senior paid throughout their working life would go to a private insurance company, rather than to a guaranteed benefit.
Just as a very popular provision in the Affordable Care Act is reducing prescription drug costs for seniors, the House Republican plan would raise prescription drug costs for millions of seniors. It would get rid of our health reform’s provisions providing a 50% discount for brand-name drugs for seniors in the ‘donut hole’ and completely closing the ‘donut hole’ by 2020.
In addition, literally months after it went into effect, the House Republicans’ plan also raises costs for seniors by getting rid of the new free preventive care benefit under Medicare, which went into effect on January 1st.
Finally, the plan that passed on the floor today (on a party line vote), phases in an increase for the age at which seniors are eligible for the new voucher program that replaces Medicare from 65 to 67, beginning in 2022.
The seniors I spoke with this afternoon seemed to share my grave concerns about the elimination of Medicare. Say what you will about the rather protracted process surrounding the passage of last year’s health care reform measure, but at least it can be said that input was taken from all sides. It is also clear that all the conversations and negotiation led to a consensus bill that achieved passage.
The measure that passed the House today (by a partisan vote of 235-193) and caused great concern among the seniors I spoke with this afternoon, has zero chance of becoming law. No bipartisan effort was made to reach out and compromise with members of my party, whose votes in the Senate and signature from the President are needed for any measure to become law, let alone this sweeping measure.
So, as I assured seniors today, the House Republican budget and plan to gut Medicare is a political exercise full of sound and fury that only signifies something meaningful to the hard core base of the Republican Party.