Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just The Facts

Regarding the health care aspect of the House teabaggR budget plan, readers interested in factual and objective reporting would do well to read this:

....With regard to health care, the Ryan plan envisages a major withdrawal of at least the federal government from the financing of health care in America. Among the major provisions to that effect are these:

• Through block grants rather than sharing actual outlays by the states on Medicaid, it would drastically reduce the federal government’s contribution to the state-run Medicaid programs, which, of course, might force states to raise their taxes on their residents or significantly reduce eligibility for the program.

• It would repeal and defund the president’s health-care law, in particular the large federal subsidies that would go either to low-income families toward the purchase of health insurance or to the states to enroll such families in Medicaid. Instead, the plan says, it would “advance common-sense solutions focused on lowering costs, expanding access and protecting the doctor-patient relationship.” What the alternative solutions expanding access would be, especially the financing of these solutions, is not made clear.

• For people now 55 or younger, the traditional Medicare program – a defined benefit plan — would cease to exist and, starting in 2022, would be converted to a defined contribution program. Starting in 2022 the eligibility age would gradually be ratcheted up to 67 from the current 65.

It is not surprising, and altogether healthy in our democracy, that Mr. Ryan’s vision has drawn sharp criticism from the liberal camp, including a speech by President Obamahimself. In this post, I will leave such commentary untouched and focus on only one aspect of the proposal....

...In an Op-Ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Ryan wrote, “Starting in 2022, new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy.”

He repeated that assertion on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on April 10, when he said, “For future generations, what we are proposing is a personalized Medicare, a Medicare system that works exactly like the health care I have as a member of Congress and federal employees have.”

Exactly? I beg to differ.

There is a huge difference in one important aspect between the Medicare program in the Ryan budget plan and the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, or F.E.H.B.P., for federal employees and for members of Congress.

Basically, the F.E.H.B.P. is best described as a typical employer-sponsored health insurance plan. The federal government’s – that is, taxpayers’ – annual contribution to the premiums paid to competing private insurers by employees and members of Congress would rise in step with the average premiums charged by the private insurers (see Page 1). ...

... By contrast, under the Ryan plan, the federal contribution toward the purchase of private health insurance by future Medicare beneficiaries would be indexed only to the Consumer Price Index (see Page 2 of the C.B.O. analysis).

I've called the House teabaggR budget a fork in the road, because it is. If it's the direction voters want to go, so be it. But it would help if, for the first time I know of in the bowels of teabaggerism, they knew exactly what it is they'll be choosing. Sadly, to do that, they'd have to move from their most trusted source of "news" to one of the few remaining sources of actual news. And if Fox, and the string-pullers on the bags of tea, and the rest of the RWS™ have their way, that'll never happen.

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