Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., widely touted as an "honest, deeply serious thinker," has offered his blueprint for America. Unfortunately, his plan takes a hard whack at health care for the elderly -- shifting costs to individuals and the states.
It is worth remembering that before 1965, nearly half of the elderly people in this country had no health insurance. The problem was how to provide insurance against high medical costs in old age after people completed their working years and had less income. Medicare, which passed in 1965, effectively resolved that issue for our grandparents.
But Ryan's plan, embraced by House Republicans, tries to roll back the clock.
Under his proposal, which he borrowed from former California Rep. Bill Thomas' dead-on-arrival 1999 idea, the elderly no longer would receive the traditional Medicare card, with choice of doctors. Instead, older folks would get a voucher to help buy a health insurance policy. Payments would go to private insurers, not directly to hospitals and doctors, as occurs under traditional Medicare.
The Congressional Budget Office analysis said that most elderly people "would bear a much larger share of their health care costs than they would under the current program." Not surprisingly, to avoid squawking from people most strongly attached to Medicare, Ryan would allow individuals 55 and older to keep traditional Medicare.
Ryan assumes those folks will not fight for their children and grandchildren born after 1956. We hope he's wrong.
Certainly, Medicare is under financial strain, requiring cost control measures. But it does not need Ryan's radical transformation.
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