Medi-scare Or What
House Speaker Paul Ryan has accused Democrats of conducting scare tactics around his proposed changes to Medicare. Ryan points to the projected exhaustion of the Medicare Trust Fund and its ultimate “bankruptcy” as reason to act. Ryan claims his plan is benign and will save healthcare for current and future Medicare subscribers. Hmmm.
Roughly speaking, Ryan has proposed adding to Medicare the option of “good” (?) private health care insurance. For Americans currently on Medicare, they could stay put with the current plan. Presumably some group of Americans, for example those under 50 would ultimately only have the “good” private insurance option. Medicare would die out as its subscribers died out.
Ryan’s plan carries some serious risks. The financial underpinnings of current Medicare can be fixed in a straight forward manner by raising or broadening the Medicare withholding tax, AND, putting in place sensible cost controls (US healthcare costs are twice the amount any other country spends).
The notion that the Medicare funding issue could be solved with “free market” principles is laughable when one looks around the world or considers the rising costs of healthcare insurance which most working Americans have .
All other major industrial countries utilize some form of a single payer healthcare system. At least two dozen of these countries have better health outcomes than the US. And, oh by the way, none of these countries spend as much per capita as does the US.
Medicare, however, is in a difficult spot. Each year, Medicare withholding tax revenues are less than what the efficient Medicare single payer system has to spend. The idea of giving each American the option of staying where they are or joining some new “good” private health insurance plan suggests first, that Medicare does not deliver “good” healthcare and second, that Americans are naive enough to believe there is another free lunch just waiting to be tasted.
There should be no doubt that Medicare subscribers could be shifted to other types of insurance and the balance between tax revenues and outflows could be made even. Less coverage or higher co-pays and deductibles from a “good” plan would shift the current deficit to Medicare users.
But there is no reason to believe the proposed “good” private healthcare insurance would provide the same coverage as currently available with Medicare somehow at a lower cost. (Ryan and company argue that “competition” will drive down the insurance costs. Hmmm.)
Medicare provides health insurance for the most vulnerable and ultimately the sickest Americans. Some of this cohort is wealthy and can afford to pay extra. Others are on a fixed income and are dependent upon what Medicare provides. Scare tactics are tempting but shear facts and comparisons with other nations should convince reasonable people that healthcare does not belong in the private sector.