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Republicans’ Budget Declares War on Medicare

Republicans’ Budget Declares War on Medicare

The Republicans are poised to unveil a model budget today that would effectively end Medicare by privatizing it, Steve Benen reports in the Washington Monthly. House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) is touting the budget as a strategy to reduce the national debt.

Ryan’s plan would turn Medicare from a single-payer system to a “premium support” system. “Premium support” is a euphemism for the government giving up to $15,000 per person, per year, to insurance companies to defray the cost of a health insurance policy.

As Benen points out, privatizing Medicare does nothing to contain health care costs. On the contrary, as insurance customers weary of double-digit premium increases can attest, private insurers have a miserable track record of containing costs. They excel at denying care and coverage, but that’s not the same thing.

The only way the government would save money under Ryan’s proposal is by paying a flat rate in vouchers. Medicare covers the full cost of medical treatments, but private insurers are typically much less generous. So, after paying into Medicare all their working lives, Americans currently 55 and younger would get vouchers for part of their health insurance and still have to pay out-of-pocket to approach the level of benefits that Medicare currently provides.

Taking aim at Medicaid

The poor are easy targets for Republican budget-slashing, Jamelle Bouie writes on TAPPED. Ryan’s proposal would also cut $1 trillion over the next 10 years from Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor, by eliminating federal matching and providing all state funding through block grants. Most of this money would come from repealing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which is slated to add 15 million people to Medicaid.

Block grants are cuts in disguise. Currently, Medicaid is an entitlement program, which means that states have to enroll everyone who is eligible, regardless of the state’s ability to pay. In return, the states get federal matching funds for each person in the program. Ryan and the Republicans want to change Medicaid into a block grant program where the federal government simply gives each state a lump sum to spend on Medicaid. The states want to use this new found “flexibility” to cut benefits, narrow eligibility criteria, and generally gut the program.

This is incredibly short-sighted. The current structure of Medicaid ensures extra federal funding for every new patient. So when unemployment rises and large numbers of new patients become eligible for Medicaid, the states get extra federal money for each of them. But with a block grant, the states would just have to stretch the existing block grants or find money from somewhere else in their budgets. Medicaid rolls surge during bad economic times, so a block grant system could make state budget crises even worse.

Ryan’s proposal has no chance of becoming law as long as Democrats control the Senate. The main purpose of the document is to lay out a platform for the 2012 elections.

Fake debt crisis

In The Nation, sociologist and activist Frances Fox Piven argues that the Republicans are hyping the debt threat to justify cuts to social programs:

Corporate America’s unprovoked assault on working people has been carried out by manufacturing a need for fiscal austerity. We are told that there is no more money for essential human services, for the care of children, or better public schools, or to help lower the cost of a college education. The fact is that big banks and large corporations are hoarding trillions in cash and using tax loopholes to bankrupt our communities.

She notes that Republican-backed tax cuts for the wealthy are a major contributor to the debt.

Jesus was a non-union carpenter?

Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones reports on the religious right’s crusade against unions. He notes that James Dobson of the socially conservative Family Research Council tweeted: “Pro-family voters should celebrate WI victory b/c public & private sector union bosses have marched lock-step w/liberal social agenda.”

Harkinson reports that the Family Research Council is backing the Republican incumbent, David Prosser, in today’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election — a battle that has become a proxy fight over Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining bill:

The FRC’s new political action committee, the Faith, Family, Freedom Fund, is airing ads on 34 Wisconsin radio stations in an effort to influence the April 5 judicial election that could ultimately decide the fate of the law. The ads target Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, who’s running against a conservative incumbent, David Prosser, for a seat on the state Supreme Court. If elected, Kloppenburg would alter the balance on the court in favor of Democrats, giving them the ability to invalidate the recently enacted ban on public-employee collective bargaining. “Liberals see her as their best hope to advance their political agenda and strike down laws passed by a legislature and governor elected by the people,” say the ads. “A vote for Prosser is a vote to keep politics out of the Supreme Court.”

Roger Bybee of Working In These Times argues that recalling Republican state senators in Wisconsin is not enough to defend workers’ rights from Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union onslaught.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.


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Photo courtesy of MoneyBlogNewz via flickr
By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

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114 comments

+ add your own
6:10AM PDT on Apr 13, 2011

Time for another house cleaning,the poor shouldn't have to suffer for big corperations and big govermeants greed.

1:35PM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

Of course it does. Didn't you know that we are all suppose to be filthy millionaires and not care about anyone else?

8:08AM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

NOT VOTE???? That attitude is why some of these idiots get in office. Millions have died to protect your right TO vote and not to do it is saying ...so what! It is your only chance to be heard even if it is canceled by an opposing vote at least you spoke. Not voting has given us lousy people who won by a "landslide of apathy" They want you not to vote so they can win!!!! They depend on it. I have never missed a chance to "speak" It is not about winning it is about speaking and no one can stop me and they have tried. PLEASE reconsider!!!

9:47AM PDT on Apr 9, 2011

time to get rid of them all and start over......impeach them all......take away their homes, income, insurance etc and hand it back to all of us........only people who can change this is us and voting is not the answer

8:05AM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

So long as they take care of their campaign funds they don't care about US.They become millionaires on our blood, sweat and tears. RECALL ANYONE WHO VOTES FOR THIS!!!

8:02AM PDT on Apr 8, 2011

our 3 day work week Congress costs us over 4 TRILLION a year(250,000 in bottled water alone) Cut their cost and pay by 50% and make them pay the 80% of their health care and we pay the 20% and raise the ceiling on SS from 75,000 to 500,000 then add the sliding scale and we could fund a lot of programs and they would be forced to sacrifice as well!!!!!

2:37PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

and the reason why the people in the middle east countries are
rebelling against their government is

2:21PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Just reminds us of the old movie with Charleton Hesston, Soylent Green. Maybe the T's are sharpening the knives as we speak!

12:12PM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

The jackboots of the republican oppressors want to stomp on every middle class and poor person in this country. Vote them OUT!

11:01AM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF, "OUR" SOCIAL SECURITY, YOU GREEDY GOVERNMENT IDIOT'S!!!!! Sorry for the all caps...but THIS makes me soooo angry!!! Grrrr!!!!

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