Judgment Day is almost here for Senate Republicans (oh, not this one). I am talking about the upcoming vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s crazy budget plan that is going to force the Senate Republicans to make a difficult choice (well, it shouldn’t be difficult for those who have economic sanity) on whether or not to support ending Medicare as we know it. The House Republicans chose to embrace it and results have not been pretty for them:
Associated Press: Protesters Greet Paul Ryan in Chicago. “Dozens of protesters carrying signs and chanting ‘Tax the rich’ marched outside a hotel in downtown Chicago to protest a speech by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan is the architect of the Republican budget plan, which includes a controversial proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher program. Doug Adams of Chicago was among the protesters. Adams says people need to wake up because Republicans, Wall Street and big business think older Americans are an expensive commodity.” (LINK)
Arizona Republic (AZ): Anthem Audience Challenges Quayle During Presentation On Medicare. “U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle had finished a Power Point presentation on the national debt this week when members of the audience started a running commentary and flashing signs that read ‘Hands off our Medicare.’ About 225 people filed into the Fellowship Church in Anthem on Monday to hear about a $14.3 trillion budget shortfall and ways to resolve it. The gathering quickly turned into a sort of political rally, with people arguing with the freshman lawmaker who represents Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, which includes Phoenix, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.” (LINK)
Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV): Heck Town Hall Meeting Sparks Passions. “The crowd didn't just argue with Republican Rep. Joe Heck at a town hall meeting in Boulder City on Wednesday. The 50 people in attendance often shouted at each other, indifferent to whether the Republican federal budget Heck was there to discuss would hurt or help Medicare and the job market.” (LINK)
Associated Press(MN): Freshman Rep. Cravaack Defends Medicare Vote. “Terry Bell, 62, of Cambridge, criticized the slides for being inaccurate. He asked Cravaack to point out the last time Republicans produced a balanced budget. ‘Your party has added to the deficit ever since the Ford administration,’ Bell said. ‘The only time you get the least bit concerned is when the Democratic Party gets in.’” (LINK)
Of course, the traditional media are not covering these events with the same intensity as they were all over the infamous corporate-funded town hall protests by Tea Partiers during the summer of 2009. Nevertheless, the Republicans are feeling the heat, resulting in their rather cowardly disposition heading into next week’s vote. Sensing the momentum, the Congressional Democrats turned up the heat today by releasing a brand spanking new report that shows that Ryan’s “right wing social-engineering” will more than double what older Americans have to pay for health care in every state.
Specifically, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) released a new state-by-state analysis that finds out-of-pocket health-care costs will more than double for residents turning 65 in 2022 under Paul Ryan’s budget plan. From a JEC press release today:
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a typical 65-year-old Medicare beneficiary in 2022 would see their out-of-pocket health care costs increase from $6,154 to $12,513 under the Republican budget. Using that data along with cost-sharing data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the JEC has estimated out-of-pocket costs on a state-by-state basis. While the increase varies by state, residents in all states will see their out-of-pocket expenses more than double when they turn 65 in 2022. Residents in Florida face the largest increase –$7,383.
The report also shows that current Medicare beneficiaries will be harmed by the GOP budget, immediately losing preventive services such as mammograms and facing higher prescription drug costs.
“This new JEC analysis helps to fill in the picture on just how disastrous and costly the Republican Medicare plan is for our older Americans,” said Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the JEC. “If Republicans have their way, traditional Medicare will no longer exist in 2022. Instead, our elderly will get a voucher to purchase private insurance, but the voucher won’t keep pace with health care costs. The result would be a staggering increase in out-of-pocket costs beginning in 2022. In my state of Pennsylvania, someone turning 65 in 2022 would face a $6,300 increase in their health care expenses. Our elderly Americans cannot afford to have their health care expenses double, but that’s exactly what the Republican plan delivers.”
The increased out-of-pocket costs result from older Americans bearing a larger share of health care costs under the Republican plan and the increase in total health care costs that results from shifting from traditional Medicare to a less efficient, more expensive voucher program.
“The Republican Medicare plan doesn’t rein in health care costs,” continued Casey. “Instead, it simply shifts the costs onto the backs of our elderly. The Republican ‘solution’ is providing our elderly with dramatically higher costs and less care. Current beneficiaries will suffer and the next generation will face retirement without Medicare and without the peace of mind it offers.”
A nifty breakdown of this report can also be found here. It's not pretty. No wonder Scott Brown is so tangled up over this. He has now been reduced to playing around with prepositions. Senate Republicans are crying that Democrats need to come up with their own “budget plan.” Leader Nancy Pelosi had a simple answer for that whine yesterday: "We have a plan. It’s called Medicare."
So what will these Senate Republicans do? Are they going to throw the older Americans off the cliff? Answers are coming up next week.