Friday, June 10, 2011

New Buzzword for "Vouchers" is "Premium Support," Repealing Medicare, Americans Weigh in On Debt, Health Care Reform Faces Big Legal Challenge

It was one of those days when you just wanted to stop the madness.  Even some state legislators are voting against Medicare.  But first, the continuation of MEDISCARE . . . .

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his budget plan which Republicans have mostly supported, and Ryan has variously described how Medicare would change.  "But Ryan's claims are riddled with distortions.  His voucher plan would not give seniors coverage just like that of Congress."  So, the Republicans keep on complaining that the Democrats "are engaging in 'Mediscare,' what they call an irresponsible and demagogic attempt to transform a serious national problem into an opportunity for crass partisan advantage."

In Republicans, Medicare and the Golden Rule, the author takes the Republicans to task, highlighting many of those distortions.  "But the 'premium support' -- the Republicans' new focus group-tested term for 'vouchers' -- that members of Congress receive covers the equivalent of, on average, about 70 percent of their total costs.  By contrast, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan's vouchers will cover less than half of the cost of insurance in 2022 and, due to health insurance inflation, a little less than one-third of the total cost by 2030.  Additionally, because private insurance has much higher administrative costs than does Medicare, CBO estimates that the Ryan plan would add more than $30 trillion to total health insurance costs over the next 75 years, roughly five times the entire projected Social Security shortfall for that time period. [my emphasis]"  Who profits from those added administrative costs?  You do, if you're a health insurance company!  With today's Medicare, taxpayers essentially "pocket the savings."

Medicare has been "Kryptonite" for Republicans, and a Wisconsin state GOP Legislator has fallen into the Medicare trap.  "State legislators aren't able to vote either way on the Medicare-ending House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).  Nevertheless, Democrats, labor leaders and progressives trying to recall GOP state Senators in Wisconsin are eager to tie them to Ryan's budget which, in one prominent case at least, has proven to be political kryptonite for supposedly safe Republicans.  In the case of state Sen. Alberta Darling (R), Democrats may have just found the connection they needed."   "Progressives made it clear today that Ryan's appearance at Darling's fundraiser gives them the chance to stick her with Ryan's Medicare plan."

And, Texas is moving ahead with its own attempt to repeal Medicare.  "Yesterday, Texas lawmakers in the state house passed a 142-page measure in special session that could drastically change how 6.6 million Texans benefiting from Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP programs receive their care."   "Texas would enter a compact that would exempt the state from the federal eligibility and benefit rules in the Medicaid program and from all Medicare rules, allowing lawmakers to 'possibly sweep Texas seniors on Medicare into private health insurance policies.'"

The American people have as much difficulty as their elected officials when it comes to making hard choices such as Medicare cuts vs. increasing debt.  A new poll says that Americans are split on the debt limit.  People recognize the need to raise the limit, and they don't really want deep cuts.  "While most Americans say they worry that Congress’s failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause serious harm to the economy, barely more than half say they would support an increase that comes with the deep spending cuts, according to a new poll."  Also, "With only tepid support for Ryan’s Medicare plan, 49 percent of those surveyed say they trust President Barack Obama to do a better job handling Medicare and 35 percent said the same of congressional Republicans.  The GOP does better, though, when it comes to handling the federal budget deficit: 47 percent of those surveyed say they trust Republicans more, while 39 percent trust Obama more."

Very much related to the concerns about the possible repeal of Medicare is the lawsuit brought by 26 mostly Republican states and others to challenge the constitutionality of President Obama's health care reform law.  News coverage is increasing, and we bring your attention to three items.

"Three federal appeals judges expressed unease with a requirement that virtually all Americans carry health insurance or face penalties, as they repeatedly raised questions about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul."   Health Care Reform Law Faces Pointed Questions From Federal Appeals Court Judges   "At issue Wednesday was a ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida to invalidate the entire law, from the Medicare expansion to a change that allows adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' insurance.  The government contends that the law falls within its powers to regulate interstate commerce."  Defenders of the law also say, "Congress had the right to regulate what uninsured Americans must buy because they shift $43 billion each year in medical costs to other taxpayers."

A more optimistic report is found in Judge Dismisses Key Argument Of Health Care Reform Foes.  The Court "posed tough questions to both plaintiffs and defendants and made it clear they found merit in arguments from both sides.  But in a brief exchange with plaintiffs' attorney Paul Clement, one of the judges -- Bill Clinton appointee Frank Hull -- dismissed one of health care reform foes' key arguments out of hand.  Specifically, Hull cast aside the plaintiff's claim that by compelling non-participants in the insurance industry to buy health insurance, it regulates 'inactivity.'"  Opponents of the law "have argued -- as have other legal challengers the new law -- that the government overstepped its Commerce Clause powers by coercing people to enter a market they have chosen not to enter."

For an excellent summary of today's court action concerning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act see:  Battle Over Health Law Moves To Atlanta Courtroom.


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