Republican Senators including Susan Collins of Maine, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John McCain of Arizona and Orrin Hatch of Utah have indicated they don’t support privatizing Medicare with vouchers according to Social Security Works, an advocacy organization defending Medicare and Social Security. House Speaker Paul Ryan said on “60 Minutes” broadcast on Sunday night that he hasn’t even discussed Medicare with Donald Trump yet. Moving forward to privatize Medicare is not one of one of the first issue priorities for the new administration. However, it may not even get out of the starting blocks if the four Republicans and perhaps others refuse to support it.
Trump claimed during the campaign on his website that he wouldn’t cut Social Security and Medicare and said he was the only Republican who wouldn’t. However, he has more recently approved statements saying he wanted to “modernize” Medicare. And, he has appointed Congressman Tom Price of Georgia who supports Ryan’s plan to head the Department of Health and Human Services which oversees Medicare.
Collins, the Chair of the Senate Aging Committee, told the Portland Maine Press Herald, “A complete upending of a program that by and large serves seniors well is not something that appeals to me.” Senator Alexander, chair of the Health Committee, said that overhauling Medicare was “biting off more than we can chew.” It would only take three Republican senators to go against the Ryan plan to stop it, assuming all the Democratic senators refused to go along as well.
Ryan says that Medicare has to be cut because of a long term financial problem. Ryan has decided that the program in its current form shouldn’t continue. He is using funding issues as a an excuse to dismantle the program and turn it over to the private sector but with a Medicare sponsored plan that would probably not be able to compete if it had too many sicker persons in it.
Ryan’s plan would actually keep the traditional Medicare program but put it into competition with private plans with a set “voucher” amount. How older and sicker beneficiaries would fare under this system is the great concern. It seems that the Ryan plan is designed to “save” Medicare by making cuts, claiming competition will keep costs down. However, as with all these types of efforts turning the program over to the private sector, plans will be designed to “cherry pick” the younger, healthier beneficiaries and the sicker ones will not have enough in the voucher. They will see their out of pocket costs escalate unless there is a reasonable out of pocket cap on total expenses for each beneficiary.
Social Security Works says national senior organizations already have collected 750,000 signatures on petitions calling on Congress to protect Medicare and Social Security.