Huckabee Allows Rep. Tom Price To Call Ryan's Plan To Voucherize Medicare 'Premium Support'

There are a lot of other talking points that could be debunked in this segment from Mike Huckabee's show on Fox, like pretending that throwing seniors at the mercy of the "free market" and the for-profit private insurance market would somehow give
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There are a lot of other talking points that could be debunked in this segment from Mike Huckabee's show on Fox, like pretending that throwing seniors at the mercy of the "free market" and the for-profit private insurance market would somehow give them the ability to keep those costs down. Ezra Klein wrote a very good article last month which explains why Rep. Tom Price is not telling the truth when he calls Paul Ryan's plan to voucherize Medicare "premium support." It's not.

And par for the course, Price is not asked to explain why Republicans want to keep the current Medicare system in place for those over 55 years of age if privatizing it is such a wonderful idea and would keep costs down.

Here's Klein's article -- Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan is not Bill Clinton’s fault:

Finally, it was a very different plan. The idea of giving Medicare beneficiaries a choice of private plans in addition to traditional Medicare fee-for-service — in wonk parlance, “premium support” — does have Democratic backers. Some months ago, in fact, I interviewed Henry Aaron, a center-left health-care expert who is one of the idea’s creators. And he said the problem with Ryan’s plan is that it’s not premium support.

Premium support, Aaron explained, was designed to create competition without allowing cost-shifting. The key feature was that payments kept pace with the cost of health care. That way, either there’d be savings from competition, or there wouldn’t be savings. And you can see that in the bipartisan committee’s proposal. They authors write that “on average, beneficiaries would be expected to pay 12 percent of the total cost of standard option plans.” And as far as I can tell, that defined the federal contribution, no matter the growth in health-care costs. You could save money by choosing a cheaper plan, but the government couldn’t save money by simply covering less and less of your costs each year. Premium support, in other words.

That’s not how Ryan’s plan works. For one thing, it eliminates traditional fee-for-service Medicare. For another, Its savings come from capping the growth of federal spending at inflation — which is much, much, much slower than the rate of health-care cost growth. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that, in 2022, Ryan’s plan would have a typical beneficiary shouldering 61 percent of the cost of a standard plan, and by 2030, because the government would limit its contributions, they’d be paying 68 percent. That’s very different than a plan that holds the average contribution to 12 percent of the plan’s cost. But it’s absolutely central to how the Ryan budget saves money. It’s the core of his proposal.

And as my fellow C&L contributor Jon Perr pointed out to me today, Tom Price is not exactly the best spokesman for saving Medicare, since he thinks it was a mistake from the beginning as Jon noted in this post -- GOP Medicare Killers Now Pretend to Be Saviors:

In 2009, Missouri's Roy Blunt argued that "government should have never gotten into the health care business." That same month, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, a one-time orthopedic surgeon and then chairman of the Republican Study Group, proclaimed:

"Going down the path of more government will only compound the problem. While the stated goal remains noble, as a physician, I can attest that nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government's intrusion into medicine through Medicare."

When asked at a 2009 rally, Rep. Price refused to defend Medicare after stating "we will not rest until we make certain that government-run health care is ended."

Partial rough transcript of Price below the fold.

HUCKABEE: Congressman, you have a unique perspective because you've not only been a member of Congress for a number of terms, but I think very significantly, you've practiced medicine and you are a physician. You know the Medicare program in ways most people don't ever want to know it. You know it from the receiving side as a provider. What's wrong with Medicare? Why don't doctors like it? And why are doctors fearful of a Medicare program that doesn't have significant reform?

PRICE: Well, the Medicare program was meant initially to be kind of a safety net for seniors and it has grown into an insurance program, health insurance program for seniors and that may be okay but the problem is, is that because of the demographics of our society, the aging of the population, we're getting a larger number of Medicare recipients today – smaller amount of money, and so the pie is shrinking.

So what the Democrats do, their solution is to ration care, it's to cut the amount of services that are available to seniors. We don't believe that's the right solution. We believe that you can reform and save Medicare for future generations while at the same time making it so that those 55 and above will be able to continue to receive, or when they reach the age of Medicare age they'll be able to receive Medicare currently as we know it.

There is a positive solution. The problem is the other side thinks it's to ration care. We believe that we ought to make it so that it's patient centered, patients, families and doctors making those medical decisions.

HUCKABEE: Well, let's talk about that. How do those reforms work? In a very practical way, how do I as a potential Medicare recipient look at the future of Medicare under the Ryan plan? How does this affect me?

PRICE: Well it's important to know initially Mike, as you well know that Medicare as we know it is going to end under the current law. There will be no more Medicare after nine to fifteen years depending on how the numbers work out...

HUCKABEE: And that's not because of the Ryan plan.

PRICE: No.

HUCKABEE: That's because the money's running out.

PRICE: And because of Obama-care. So the status quo right now is not going to be there regardless of which plan you have. So you can have government run or you can have our plan, the Republican plan which has come to be known as the Ryan plan. And that plan is a positive plan. It says if you're 55 years of age or above, you get to continue to remain on Medicare, the current Medicare program for as long as you live.

For those under the age of 55, we believe that positive reforms that save Medicare for future generations is in order and what that means is that you would receive based upon your income, your health status and what's called a premium support, which allows you to be able to purchase the kind of coverage that you want for yourself, not that the government wants for you.

So you won't have the kind of rationing of care, you'll have a responsive system that makes, so that again patients are able to make decisions with their doctors, not having the government come in and ration care, which is precisely, precisely what the president's plan is.

HUCKABEE: Congressman, we're running out of time, but there is a very important follow up to that. The thing that Democrats say is that if you put them, people into the private sector, the insurance company will raise the rates and then what they're getting won't cover and there will be this disparity between what it's actually costing and what it's worth. How do you respond to that?

PRICE: Well those are folks who don't have any comprehension or belief in the free market system. There will be like 70 to 80 million seniors. If you don't believe Mike that that's a market, and I'm telling you that's a real market and what that means is that the market will adjust to what seniors want and they will make it much more responsive to what seniors want. So if you want a prolonged period of wellness and prevention care, you will be able to receive it through the market.

If those individuals between the age of 65 and 75 find themselves in a healthier status, they may want for themselves a high deductible catastrophic plan. Individuals ought to be able to have that kind of flexibility because that's where you get the highest quality care, when patients and their doctors are making medical decisions. That's the key to quality health care.

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