The stupid[est] wing of the already crazy Republican Party, composed in the Senate of people like Rand Paul (Ill), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah) and others, has predictably come up with this cycle’s most expensive, dishonest, unfair and politically suicidal proposal to end and replace Medicare.
I don’t mean just “end Medicare as we know it,” so pay attention, Politifact. They mean to flat out kill it, stone cold dead, starting in 2014. And the craziest part of their proposal is they want to replace it with . . . an individual mandate forcing all Seniors to purchase private health insurance, with government subsidies that become less sufficient over time while health care costs rise.
I can hardly wait for the GOP leadership and Presidential candidates, not to mention President Obama and the Democrats, to figure out how to attack this.
From The Hill:
The “Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act” would allow seniors to choose from the array of plans currently offered to the four million federal employees and their dependents in the Federal Employee Health Benefit program, starting in 2014. It would also gradually increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70 over a 20-year period.
The bill was introduced Thursday by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint are co-sponsors, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
How did Sen. Lindsey Graham get in on this? Why, he’s there to lend gravitas and to set the record for most misrepresentations packed into a single statement:
“Our goal is to save Medicare from bankruptcy and ensure seniors have  affordable, high-quality health care — a crisis President Obama has only made worse during his time in office,” Graham said. “Allowing seniors access to the Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) program, which members of Congress and federal employees use, will give them more choices and lower their out-of-pocket costs.”
Each of the items marked [ ] is essentially false or misleading, so Lindsey gets six points for dishonesty in just two sentences. But never mind that. Think about what they’re proposing and compare that to the structure of the Affordable Care Act.
In essence, every Senior would be required to purchase private health insurance from a list of policies defined and approved by the government, and if they can find the choices on a web page then . . .voila! we have an exchange! The individual mandate would apply to everyone at age 65 (moving to 70 in a few years). The government wouldn’t ensure you can afford necessary and sufficient health care; it would merely cover, for now, an average of 75% of your premiums for whatever the policy covers. So as health care costs rose, so would your contributions to the premiums and non-covered care. And how would anyone control costs? They wouldn’t, because the Advisory Board set up in the ACA to ferret out lower costs and other means to control provider payments would be gone. You’re on your own in a dysfunctional market.
But you wouldn’t know this from the talking points the GOP Senators used:
According to a synopsis from Paul’s office, the bill would:
• slash the deficit by $1 trillion over the first 10 years and reduce Medicare’s 75-year unfunded obligation by almost $16 trillion;
• offer seniors “richer benefits, higher quality health care, and better access to doctors and providers” while cutting their premiums to $1,900 per year — less than the $3,500 seniors currently pay for Medicare benefits and supplemental insurance, or Medigap;
• charge seniors the same premium regardless of their health status or pre-existing conditions;
Translation: Since there’s no mechanism by which the proposal could reduce actual health care costs, a $1 trillion reduction in deficits over 10 years means that the proposal shifts $1 trillion actual costs to seniors. That also means that the claimed cut in premiums is a shell game. You can’t reduce total premiums while shifting a $1 trillion in costs, let alone $16 trillion. And the rule that insurers cover all comers regardless of health and pre-existing conditions is a clue we’re dealing with the same mandatory purchase model embedded in the ACA.
The WaPo’s Dana Milbanks captures the wonderful irony:
At Thursday’s news conference, Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times pointed out that the lawmakers were proposing to do with Medicare almost exactly what President Obama’s reforms do for non-retirees: Direct them into private insurance with a subsidy for those who need it most.
Paul was flummoxed. “Uh, anybody want to comment on that?” he asked, producing laughter in the Senate TV studio.
Yes, the clowns are always hilarious, as long as no one takes them seriously. But this isn’t the circus and these people are Senators. It won’t take much more craziness for the clowns to be in charge of running the place, as they already do in the GOP-controlled House and the GOP side of the Senate.
So once again, Obama/Democrats, how are you going to explain why this is nuts? Don’t say we didn’t warn you.