Commentary: With Ryan's Medicare and Medicaid debate, may sanity prevail

The Myrtle Beach Sun NewsApril 18, 2011 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is more than a year old and more than 800,000 South Carolinians are benefiting from the health reform law, including one young lady in Aynor whom I met last year.

She's suffering from a rare form of cancer and got so sick she had to drop out of college. Before the law, that would have also meant she would have been kicked off her parents' insurance plans. The Affordable Care Act helped to alleviate at least that headache.

Folks such as the head of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce continue to talk about the law's provisions that provide incentives for small businesses.

And the debate surrounding the law has revealed that most of us are on some type of government-run or subsidized plan, including the majority of us who receive health care through private employers. Those plans are made possible largely because of subsidies and tax incentives from the federal government.

But the debate was muddied by emotionally charged, inaccurate claims about "death panels" and "pulling the plug on grandma."

Hopefully, that won't happen this time around in the debate over U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to transform Medicare and Medicaid as we know it.

Hopefully, no one will declare that he is simply trying to harm seniors - or that he wants to cruelly ration care - because the Congressional Budget Office projects that his plan would force seniors by 2030 to pay for two-thirds of their health care costs. Most of its cuts target programs aimed at low-income Americans and it relies upon wildly optimistic assumptions to eventually balance the budget, including a prediction of lowering the unemployment rate to an almost-unheard of 2.8 percent.

Hopefully the debate will be a sane one in which policy and credible projections remain the focus and not senseless, aimless name-calling.

Because this is an important debate.

Because health care costs remain the No. 1 threat to the country's long-term fiscal health.

The Affordable Care Act went a long way toward forcing the country to deal with that reality and is projected to help stem the tide of rising health care costs, slice into our debt and provide health insurance to millions more Americans.

It's going to be tempting to demonize Ryan's budget the way many Affordable Care Act critics demonized that law.

But I hope we all resist that temptation. This is a discussion too important to our collective future to do anything less.

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