Wendell Potter, former CIGNA executive and insurance abuse whistleblower, points out an obvious problem with Rep. Ryan’s Medicare reform using vouchers: Health care costs have been going up at twice the rate of inflation for more than a decade, so Ryan’s vouchers won’t come close to paying for seniors’ medical care. The current Medicare program guarantees a high percentage of health care costs payments, irregardless of inflation. In other words Ryan’s plan will downshift an ever increasing portion of health care expenses from the federal budget to the individual budgets of the elderly.
Last month the government reported that the consumer price index had increased 1.7 percent between June 2011 and June 2012, meaning we’ve been paying on average 1.7 percent more this year than last year for goods and services. The cost of medical care, however, shot up 4.3 percent — more than two and a half times the CPI. And that was not an aberration. The cost of medical care has been rising faster than the cost of just about everything else in this country for years. That’s one of the reasons why private health insurance premiums have been increasing so rapidly. That and the fact that insurance corporations have to report a big enough profit every quarter to satisfy their shareholders and Wall Street analysts.
Health insurance premiums rose 9 percent in 2011 to an average of $15,073 for an employer-subsidized family plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Over the past 10 years, premiums have increased a “whopping” (Kaiser’s word) 113 percent, much faster than wage increases and general inflation. So you can see what almost certainly would happen to Medicare beneficiaries beginning in 2022: They would have to shell out more and more money out of their own pockets every year just to cover the premiums their private insurers would charge them.
That’s bad enough, but consider this: Health insurers began implementing a strategy several years ago to move all of us into high-deductible plans, meaning every one of us will soon be paying (if we’re not already) thousands of dollars of our own money for medical care before our insurance company will pay a dime. Insurers adopted this strategy because they have failed miserably at controlling health care costs. If you can’t control those costs, the only way you can make Wall Street-pleasing profits if you’re an insurer is to keep hiking premiums and shifting more of the cost of care to policyholders.
Under the privatized Medicare program Ryan envisions, the effect of that cost-shifting strategy would be disastrous for the growing number of senior citizens who are finding that every year they have less and less money to make ends meet.
Beezer here. Ryan’s entire budget is aimed at slashing so-called ‘social’ spending, either privatizing it (social security), reducing it’s usefulness (medicare and medicaid), or simply doing away with it altogether (all other social spending, including programs aimed at children and women). For the wealthy who have no need for any of these programs, this is just what the doctor ordered because it means they won’t have to bother with paying more taxes. The problem for the average voter is that none of this will ever be revealed to them. The GOP has enough money to drown out any such analysis under a cacophony of mis-leading if not outright false, TV commercials. We could and should have an open discussion about how to actually ‘bend the curve’ of health care cost expenses, but the GOP has never offered anything along those lines. Instead every savings Obama wants to make in health care costs (like getting better pricing on drugs) is labeled a ‘cut in Medicare’ by the GOP. And, of course, the Ryan idea of substituting vouchers to shift costs down to elderly private budgets.