COM­MENT & ANAL­Y­SIS

Dare to Medis­care Con­ser­va­tives of­fer bold en­ti­tle­ment so­lu­tion in an elec­tion year

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

The con­ven­tional wis­dom in Washington is that noth­ing sig­nif­i­cant will be done un­til af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tion. As the coun­try racks up debt at a pace faster than ever in his­tory, a few law­mak­ers refuse to just sit back, avoid­ing con­tro­versy. They want to tackle the big­gest driver of red ink, Medi­care, and do it this year.

“We are not will­ing to wait un­til af­ter the next elec­tion to fix en­ti­tle­ments,” said fresh­man Sen. Rand Paul in an­nounc­ing his leg­is­la­tion on Thurs­day. The Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can was joined by his Re­pub­li­can cospon­sors Sen. Jim Demint and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, both of South Carolina, and fel­low fresh­man Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. Their pro­posal would give se­niors ac­cess to the same health care plans as mem­bers of Congress.

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi has called any re­form an at­tempt to “end the Medi­care guar­an­tee” and let the health care pro­gram “wither on the vine.” While Democrats use “Medis­care” tac­tics to block wor­thy ef­forts to tackle this cri­sis, they could be dis­armed with bet­ter public re­la­tions. “The pres­i­dent and Harry Reid have been lick­ing their chops for over three years wait­ing for Repub­li­cans to ac­tu­ally try to deal with the large prob­lems like Medi­care,” said Mr. Demint. “But I think if Amer­i­cans find out the truth about what we’re do­ing, it will be a very big pos­i­tive for Repub­li­cans in the fall.”

Dr. Paul’s bill would shut­ter the cur­rent over­priced and un­der­served Medi­care sys­tem that is on a path to go bank­rupt in only eight years. In its place, se­niors will have bet­ter qual­ity health care for less cost by choos­ing among the 250 health in­sur­ance plans that fed­eral em­ploy­ees now use. The av­er­age se­nior would have three-quar­ters of his pre­mium sub­si­dized by the gov­ern­ment and save $1,500 a year in out-of-pocket costs.

Com­pe­ti­tion and choice will bring down costs, as will slowly rais­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity age to 70 over 20 years. The Medi­care Board of Trus­tees re­ported that the cur­rent pro­gram has un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties of $37 tril­lion over a 75-year win­dow. This bill would lower the tra­jec­tory of pro­jected costs enough to cut that li­a­bil­ity by al­most half, $16 tril­lion. It would also save $1 tril­lion over the first 10 years in re­duced costs.

Last year, House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ryan pro­posed the con­cept of pre­mium sup­port, which en­cour­ages com­pe­ti­tion by pro­vid­ing vouch­ers for se­niors to ap­ply to a choice of pri­vate plans. Democrats launched an all-out at­tack on Mr. Ryan, hop­ing that would end any de­bate in Washington on en­ti­tle­ment re­form. Mitt Rom­ney pro­posed a more po­lit­i­cally palat­able ver­sion of­fer­ing in­di­vid­u­als a choice of a voucher or re­main­ing in the cur­rent Medi­care sys­tem.

Un­like Mr. Rom­ney’s and Mr. Ryan’s plans, this GOP re­form does ac­tu­ally end Medi­care as we know it, and that’s a good thing. By giv­ing se­niors pre­set and pre-screened op­tions, it re­moves much of the fear of be­ing forced to find their own plans in the mar­ket­place. Giv­ing the public ac­cess to their same gold-stan­dard plans takes away the fear of di­min­ished qual­ity. As Mr. Gra­ham said, “If it’s good enough for your se­na­tor, it’s good enough for you.”

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