Protect Medicare

The program needs changes that strengthen rather than weaken it

Medicare is a successful government program providing health coverage for millions of seniors. The program should be strengthened and its current benefits should be maintained.

The selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as the running mate of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, places the issue of Medicare front and center in the campaign debate. Ryan, who heads the House Budget Committee, is known for his plans to introduce a dramatic overhaul of Medicare. Specifically, he proposes that future beneficiaries, those currently 55 or younger, could opt for a government coupon to be usedfor private health insurance.

We believe this will undermine Medicare, taking away funds that would go directly to medical providers and thereby weakening the entire system. We also believe it will harm beneficiaries, in that future retirees would need to decide among confusing plans that promise different types of coverage, under a free market system that Ryan wants to put in place.

Since the quality of coverage often depends on the sophistication of the consumer, it is unacceptable to simply leave it up to individual retirees to figure out something as important as medical coverage. There’s more. It is questionable whether those who opt for private plans would receive enough money from the coupon to secure coverage. The difference in cost would be picked up by the consumer.

When Ryan’s proposal was first introduced, a congressional bipartisan analysis concluded that beneficiaries would pay more and the cost of services would not decrease.

If that wasn’t enough, the very individuals who are planning the demise of Medicare accuse President Obama of hurting the program by shifting $700 billion to healthcare reform in order to control costs. From their perspective, Obama is at one and the same time, a socialist for his federal healthcare reform and an enemy of the government’s very successful media insurance program. You can’t have it both ways!

Changes are needed to Medicare in terms of the provision of services, the age of retirees and the amount an individual pays in order to extend the system’s solvency. The next generation of retirees will likely reach that life stage without the savings of today’s seniors. They need a secure system that gives them peace of mind in terms of medical coverage and not the insecurity of a system beholden to the marketplace.