More Medicare Lies

08.22.12

How to Make Seniors Suspicious of Ryan and Romney

So there's this dispirting poll showing that seniors view Paul Ryan more favorably than does the g.p. All respondents give him a 41-37 favorable edge, while among the elders, it's 50-34.

This is, first of all, because they're more Republican than the gen pop in the first place. So, that's fine. But I wonder if it may also be in part because people have heard and assume that Ryan's Medicare changes won't affect them and will hit only people currently under age 55.

Yesterday, I described in a post how the Ryan plan and the Romney-Ryan proposals for Medicare would, in fact, impact current seniors. But today, there's more, in a terrific piece by Jackie Calmes of the Times showing that Romney's plans for Medicare would, in fact, speed its insolvency.

Romney keeps talking about how Obama is "robbing" Medicare of $716 billion to pay for Obamacare. As Gene Lyons points out in an excellent column for Joe Conason's National Memo, this is (are you sitting down?) a lie, and a racially tinged one at that. It's aimed at seniors to make them think the black president is taking their Medicare money and spending it on the you-know-whats.

But that of course isn't true. There's no "robbing" going on. The Obama Medicare cuts--which, remember, Paul Ryan also includes in his plan--are about things like reimbursement rates and don't directly affect direct patient care. But here's the even more serious problem with what Romney and surrogates are saying, as David Dayen first noted on FireDogLake and as the Times now amplifies.

Romney says he'll restore the $700 billion. What that means, though, is more Medicare spending. That is, restoring those cuts means spending that $700 billion. Which sounds nice and generous--but remember, Medicare has a trust fund. And that fund will face insolvency (if nothing is done) in 2024.

But spending this extra $700 billion will bring about insolvency sooner--in 2016, or, during President Romney's first term. So all restoring those cuts means is that it will force quicker drastic action on how to keep Medicare solvent. Calmes:

While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries. That would violate Mr. Romney’s vow that neither current beneficiaries nor Americans within 10 years of eligibility would be affected by his proposal to shift Medicare to a voucherlike system in which recipients are given a lump sum to buy coverage from competing insurers.

So there you are: a lie. And as to the future, there are basically only two ways to get to solvency. Raise Medicare taxes (currently a payroll tax of 2.9 percent, split evenly between employee and employer), or raise the eligibility age. Raising taxes is a no-no with Grover, so that leaves raising the eligibility age.

How are seniors going to like that? Short-term increases in out-of-pocket expenses and an increase in the eligibility age. They lie and they have no serious plans. They lie and they have no serious plans. They lie and they....

Housekeeping: I have some travel today and tomorrow, so this is today's last post. There will be a column, already filed, that will appear tomorrow morning. And then I'll be back in the saddle sometime tomorrow afternoon. Thanks.