I was checking my Twitter feed this evening and noticed an intriguing tweet from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. His tweet read, “The Republican plan will end Medicare by providing an $8000 voucher for seniors to purchase a private health insurance plan #SharedSacrifice”. I have to admit that the constant evolution of the debt ceiling negotiations have pushed the issue of Medicare back a few places in my political rolodex. Senator Sanders has reawakened my awareness of the sheer ridiculousness of Ryan’s plan to “improve” Medicare.
First, let’s examine the harsh reality of Ryan and the Republican plan to “fix” Medicare. Instead of the guaranteed coverage seniors currently receive, their primary healthcare insurance will be replaced by a government voucher of a mere $8,000 per year. How Republicans figure that $8,000 a year is enough for any senior to purchase a private health insurance policy is beyond me, or the realm of commonsense for that matter. I can honesty tell you that for me, a man younger than Paul Ryan, and in peak condition, my current insurance policy would cost me between $5,000-6,000 if I were forced to buy it on the street. Like I said, I’m an active and healthy young man. I’m not a 90 year old man with diabetes, heart disease, or lung cancer. Anyone who thinks that any private firm is going to insure the elderly, who are often high-risk patients with multiple pre-existing conditions, and limited financial resources, is living in a bubble. Then again, it could be that the career politicians that support the plan haven’t had to worry about purchasing private health insurance for a long time, and if they did, they have a nice $174,000 a year salary with which to do it. Worse yet, and perhaps more likely, they just don’t care.
Second, let’s look at the utter short-changing that would happen to everyone 54 years old and younger. These people have been paying into the Medicare system for up to and over four decades. They have had money skimmed from each check they sacrificed sweat, blood, and endless days, to earn. They were guaranteed a service that had been paid for in advance. Under any normal circumstances, if a customer paid for a service or product in advance, and the seller then gave them a vastly inferior product than the one they purchased; the seller would wind up in court for fraud. How then, is it moral or legal for the government to take money for a defined service, and then when it comes time for the taxpayer to collect on the promised service, they are given something that doesn’t even remotely resemble what they paid for? It sounds to me like the American taxpayers aged 54 and younger are owed a refund if the Ryan Plan, God forbid, becomes a reality.
Here are a few questions for all Republicans who are willing to hold the American economy hostage in exchange for implementing their gutting of Medicare. For the young bucks of Congress like Ryan and Cantor, men in relatively good shape in their 40s, will you voluntarily give up your nice health insurance provided by the federal government (a more comprehensive plan than offered by Medicare by the way) when you become a senior, and use the Medicare voucher system? For the elderly among the Republican ranks like McCain, McConnell, and even Boehner (age 61), if you’ve got so much pride in Ryan’s plan, will you show it and voluntarily give up your federally provided health insurance and see how much an $8,000 voucher will get you on the open market? To make things more interesting, try and accomplish this feat under the income restraints of the average American senior (total income of approximately $18,000 per year – most of which comes from Social Security, another Republican target). Let’s see just how well capitalism performs when it comes to the unprofitable enterprise of insuring the elderly.
Well, it’s become quite simple. It’s time for the Republicans, Ryan Plan stalwarts, to give the voucher system a test drive. Seems like a perfectly fair and reasonable expectation. If it’s a good enough plan to suit millions of Americans, then the plan’s champions in Congress should have no hesitance to try it out for say a year and report back. If they’re not willing to try the plan, then I guess that speaks volumes about the true adequacy of the Ryan Plan. Republicans, it’s time to put up or shut up, but who are we kidding, you’ll do neither.
-Uncle Festus, 6-27-11