Editorials

Monday, Apr 11 2011 12:12 PM

EDITORIAL: Medicare proposal would just shift elderly's burden

By The Bakersfield Californian

Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who has been characterized as an "honest, deeply serious thinker," has a plan for your golden-years health care, and you may not like it very much.

He's going to slough it off on individuals and the states, which in most cases will be even less capable of paying for it. Ryan's proposal would take away the elderly's Medicare card as we know it now -- and along with it their choice of doctors. In place of that, older Americans would get a voucher that they can apply to the purchase of a health insurance policy. Private insurers would cash the checks, rather than hospitals and doctors, as is the case now with Medicare.

The effect, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis: Most older Americans "would bear a much larger share of their health care costs than they would under the current program."

Ryan also proposes hefty cuts to the states. His plan: Send a fixed annual payment to each state in the form of a block grant. Older Americans would suffer from that approach, too, which is why 16 governors, including Gov. Jerry Brown, oppose it. "States would be forced to bear all costs after hitting the annual cap," their letter of opposition reads, "just as the 'baby boom' generation is entering their retirement years with a likely steep increase in their health care and long-term care costs over the next few decades."

At least the national health care reform signed by President Barack Obama a year ago provides tax credits to help low- and middle-income Americans purchase health insurance in state exchanges starting in 2014. Right? Oh, wait -- Ryan's proposal voids that benefit, too.

Medicare needs a reboot, no question about it. But Ryan's plan merely shifts the financial obligation from one pocket to another, leaving America's aging population with fewer options and fewer resources with which to finance them.

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