Democrats Would Let Medicare Go Bankrupt

For all their demonization of Paul Ryan and his Medicare reform effort, Democrats have no realistic plan of their own.

Democrats have predictably resorted to “Mediscare” in their attacks on Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan to reform America’s popular health support program for retirees, claiming that it would deny seniors the “bedrock promise” of affordable care even though people currently in or near retirement aren’t affected and warning that it would leave seniors “no choice” but to buy insurance of the private market, as MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow put it on Thursday, even if choice is precisely what Ryan’s plan introduces contrary to the current one size fits all government program.

Despite Democrats’ demonization of Paul Ryan, and some Republicans’ unwillingness to stand by him, his plan is currently the only one written by any politician that would save Medicare from bankruptcy.

Last week Medicare’s trustees warned that the program will run out of money in 2024 — five years earlier than they projected last year.

Once the main trust fund is depleted, revenues from Medicare taxes will initially be enough to cover 90 percent of expenses but that share will decline to 75 percent by midcentury, then rise to 88 percent by 2085.

Under these latest figures, a total worth of unfunded obligations of $24.6 trillion over the next 75 years is projected; a $2 trillion increase compared to last year’s estimate. In reality, the shortfall could be even bigger as official projections assume $575 billion in savings achieved under President Barack Obama’s health reform law and a 29 percent reduction in physician reimbursements in 2012. That is unlikely to happen. Time and again, Congress has overwritten payment reductions and it’s almost certain to do so again, especially during an election year.

Ryan’s plan, which the Republican majority in the House of Representatives approved last month, would end Medicare as it exists for anyone under the age of 55 and provide “premium support” to future retirees — a subsidy or voucher with which they could buy insurance on the private market. This, Ryan argues, would enable competition and restrain the increase in insurance costs while forcing insurers and health-care providers alike to improve the quality of their services.

Democrats don’t think so. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that Ryan would “turn over seniors’ health to profit hungry insurance companies” and “let bureaucrats decide what tests and treatments seniors get.” In fact, that is the president’s approach. He has suggested to restrain ballooning health-care costs by allowing a panel of fifteen unelected and “independent” advisors “review,” i.e., ration care.

Other than that, the Democratic plan, according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, “is called Medicare” — which will be bankrupt before the next generation retires.