Election 2012 – Medicare Digging In for the Long Haul

Medical DoctorMany critics of this approach to trimming Medicare see that as a problem, pointing out that some doctors and providers across the country are opting to leave the Medicare system.

Ryan summarized his position by declaring, “The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we’re going to stop it.”

Pres. Obama and his supporters counter that cuts in Medicare will not result in a loss of benefits to Medicare enrollees. As journalist Brian Beutler puts it, the Obama cuts in Medicare spending will be “in the form of targeted cuts to providers, not in benefits to seniors.”

According to Forbes contributor Avik Roy, $415 billion of  the $716 billion reduction in Medicare funding consists of cuts in reimbursement to doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes for services provided to Medicare enrollees. In Roy’s words, “This significant reduction in fees is driving many doctors to stop accepting new Medicare patients, making it harder for seniors to gain access to needed care.”

Those supporting the President’s approach to reducing Medicare funding are quick to point out that Candidate Ryan has spoken out loudly and often about the need for restructuring and reducing Medicare funding. “Ryan forged his reputation in large part by drafting and advancing an unpopular plan to dramatically cut and privatize Medicare,” says Beutler, referring to Ryan’s service as House Budget Committee Chairman.

How much do they agree on that issue?

Though there are differences in the details, clearly the current Administration and the Romney-Ryan camp agree that cuts are necessary in order to preserve Medicare.  According to Kaiser Health News, “President Barack Obama and GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan are pushing the same target rate for controlling federal spending on Medicare. Each would set it at half a percentage point higher than the growth rate of the economy—the gross domestic product—after a phase-in period.”

Most important, perhaps, is that both sides in the 2012 presidential election campaign give every indication that they’re committed to preserving Medicare and the benefits 48 million current recipients are counting on. Although cuts in some form—including 2 percent under last year’s budget—are certain to occur, both sides are committed to preserving Medicare benefits for current seniors and for those nearing retirement.

Both sides are committed to capping Medicare spending

And it’s hard to argue with that position. Ryan promises that no one currently over 55 would be affected by his proposals, which include the option of requiring higher-income beneficiaries to pay more for coverage. Again, that option, according to Ryan, would not apply to anyone currently 55 or older.

One of the key differences between the parties seems to lie in their views of how private enterprise ought to mix with Medicare. While the Obamacare approach appears to alarm some critics who feel it undermines free enterprise and competition, the Ryan approach appears founded more on the notion that free enterprise and competition may be exactly what the country needs to preserve Medicare.

The Medicare plan in Ryan’s latest budget, which presidential running mate Mitt Romney, according to Talking Points Media, says is “close to identical” to his own, indicates that within 10 years “Medicare would be remade into a subsidies system where seniors can buy insurance from a menu of private plans and a government option, with vouchers aimed at covering the cost of the cheapest two policies on the exchange.”

Ryan’s plan, while opening up bidding by private insurers, would require them to offer a minimum set of benefits at least equal to what is offered by traditional Medicare. The government would pay an amount equal to the premiums for the private plan with the second-lowest rate. Someone choosing a plan offered at a lower rate could receive a rebate for the difference, while someone opting for more expensive coverage would have to pay the difference out of pocket.

Although the details and the underlying philosophies differ, Talking Points journalist Sahil Kapur argues that the Ryan-Romney plan is “broadly similar to the core structure of Obamacare, under which the government sets up a regulated market exchange to ensure that plans cover a broad array of benefits.”

Whichever side wins the election this year, every indication is that Medicare remains secure for seniors depending on it now and for those within 10 years of eligibility.

Each side has its vision, but it’s clear that both sides view Medicare as an obligation to seniors and those approaching retirement.

During his Republican National Convention address, candidate Ryan made a personal connection to Medicare when he talked about his grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, who received Medicare benefits as she and her family did their best to cope with her condition.

During his address Ryan seemed to recognize that Medicare is a lifesaver for many Americans, and an obligation that needs to be kept. He even seemed to go further than making a commitment to preserving Medicare for the next 10 years. “Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it,” he said. “A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare for my mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.”

The bottom line is that your Medicare, Medicare supplement, and Medicare Advantage benefits appear to be secure under the Obama plan or the Romney plan. Changes are already in progress, and plenty more are certain in a society with an ever-increasing median age, but it’s good to know that seniors and people approaching retirement can get on with enjoying their lives secure in the knowledge that no one is about to pull the carpet out from under them.

How secure do you feel about your Medicare benefits? Please leave a comment below!

Election 2012 – Medicare Digging In for the Long Haul © 2012 MedicareMall.com


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