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Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012

The Real Paul Ryan

Seniors booed him and his plans to voucherize Medicare

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Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan got booed at the AARP meeting last week while he tried to explain that his plan for Medicare—and his desire to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA)—would actually help seniors.

The crowd wasn’t buying it.

“Seniors are threatened by Obamacare, a law that would force steep cuts to real benefits in real time for real people,” Ryan said at one point.

But his statement is terribly misleading.

Both Ryan’s plan and Obama’s ACA would cut Medicare spending by $716 billion over the next decade. But, as has been reported widely, Ryan would take that sum from recipients’ benefits, while the ACA would reduce spending on hospitals’ and insurance companies’ inefficiencies. Seniors’ benefits wouldn’t be affected.

And what about cutting “real benefits” in “real time”? Well, Ryan’s plan would do exactly that—although he didn’t mention that fact at the AARP meeting. It’s true that Ryan’s Medicare vouchers wouldn’t kick in for another decade. But his cuts to Medicaid—the program that serves low-income people, individuals with disabilities and seniors—would begin immediately. Ryan calls for reducing Medicaid funding by a third in the next 10 years and making deeper cuts thereafter. That would severely slash funding for home health support and nursing home payments, funding that seniors living independently and in long-term care facilities rely on.

 

Scare Tactics

Ryan also told the crowd to fear the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a 15-member panel that was launched as part of the new health care law. “As Medicare spending grows, this board is required to cut it,” Ryan said.

But as PolitiFact Florida pointed out when it gave a Ryan statement on the advisory board a “mostly false” rating, the board cannot ration care, change benefits or eligibility, or increase seniors’ payments. The board can cut payments to providers, but that’s about it. And Congress can override its actions. So if that board does something harmful, Ryan and his fellow members of Congress have the power to stop it.

Ryan’s ultimate solution for Medicare is to turn it into taxpayer-funded vouchers and allow seniors to shop around for insurance, just like those under 65. Ryan promotes this plan as “empowering” seniors. But in reality he’s delivering millions of seniors into the private insurance market at a time when they need health care coverage the most.

Ryan’s love of Ayn Rand’s philosophy could be motivating him to do so. Vincent Miller, writing for the blog of America: The National Catholic Weekly, provided an expanded transcript of a speech Ryan gave at the Atlas Society’s “Celebration of Ayn Rand.” In that speech, Ryan calls Social Security and Medicare “collectivist” and “socialistic” programs that “transfer wealth.” Ryan advocated for privatizing both of them for ideological and political reasons.

But Ryan may not be totally motivated by his admiration of Ayn Rand. He also could be putting his campaign donors ahead of the needs of seniors. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, those working in finance, insurance and real estate—as well as the political action committees representing them—are far and away Ryan’s biggest donors. Since 1998, that sector has contributed $3,115,147 to the Janesville congressman—more than twice what Ryan has raised from any other sector. It appears that Ryan would like to return the favor by allowing seniors to use government vouchers to purchase policies from private insurance companies and use private savings accounts instead of Social Security.

No wonder why Ryan got booed.

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