By Representative Bill Cassidy
Recently, this paper printed an article alleging that the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan would be a gamble. What's an even bigger gamble is to do nothing to rein in the out-of-control spending growth in Medicare. What's an even bigger gamble is Obamacare, which cuts $716 billion from the Medicare program to create a new unsustainable entitlement when we're nearly $16 trillion in debt. With so much misinformation being reported about Medicare and the Romney-Ryan plan, it is important to set the record straight.
If we don't modernize and stabilize the Medicare program now, it will not be available for future generations. According to Medicare's own chief actuary, if we do nothing, Medicare will run out of money in 2024. This is probably an optimistic number. One of Medicare's trustees, Charles Blahouse, recently issued a report that shows how the 2024 projection relies on the budget gimmick of double counting in Obamacare. This means that the actual date when Medicare runs out of money is more likely to be around 2016.
Both sides acknowledge that current spending rates in Medicare are unsustainable. The president's plan to solve the problem is to create an unelected board of bureaucrats who will decide, from Washington, which benefits, services and physician payments to cut from Medicare. Republicans believe it is unacceptable to allow Washington bureaucrats to make the critical health-care decisions that only patients and their doctors should make.
The Romney-Ryan plan is premium support, which honors the patient-doctor relationship and empowers seniors to make their own health-care decisions. The proposal would not change anything about the current Medicare program for anyone over the age of 55 today. Anyone under 55 today would enroll in a premium support model when they turn 65. The model would set up a framework in which insurance plans would compete for the business of seniors. This dynamic, which is lacking in the current Medicare program, will incentivize plans to provide better quality health care at a lower cost. The current Medicare fee-for-service program would still be available as one of the plan options. Competition has already proven to increase quality and bring down costs for seniors by the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit plan. The program, which relies on market competition similar to that of premium support, spends 30 percent less today than it was projected to when enacted. Seniors consistently report high levels of satisfaction with the program.
If we want to keep the Medicare promise to current and future generations of seniors, it is vital we institute the right reforms. Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan have the right vision. Only with their plan is the future of a quality and affordable Medicare program assured.