On Friday Mitt Romney introduced a plan which he claims will save Medicare. I instinctively knew there was something wrong with the proposal because (a) Romney proposed it, and (b) David Brooks likes it. Romney prefaced his plan by shamelessly using Democrat “Mediscare” tactics to pander to seniors, a tactic he employed before with Social Security, via Peter Suderman:
At a Friday speech in Washington, Mitt Romney complained once again that “President Obama is the only president in history who has cut Medicare for seniors” and promised with a straight face to “Protect Medicare. Improve the program. And keep it sustainable for generations to come.”
But that aside, the problem with Romney’s plan to keep Medicare “sustainable for generations to come” is that this is achieved by effectively extending Obamacare to seniors, as Suderman notes:
His plan to save the program from eventual bankruptcy? As is so often the case with Romney’s policy proposals, the details are still vague. Even still, there’s an easy way to describe the basic framework: It’s ObamaCare for seniors—but with the addition of a government-run “public option,” also known as traditional Medicare.
The plan bears all of the now-familiar hallmarks of a Romney policy proposal. It’s vague. It’s designed for maximum pandering. And Romney was against it before he was for it.
Since Romney released his proposal on Friday, there have been a few Romney apologists in the Washington establishment who have attempted to make the claim that Romney’s plan is like Paul Ryan’s, and therefore deserving of serious consideration from conservatives. Bus as is generally the case with anything Romney says, this is misleading at best. Suderman explains:
Under both plans, seniors would be able to use a taxpayer-funded premium support payment to subdisize their insurance premiums and then allowed to purchase a plan of their choosing from a regulated exchange—much like the system of subsidies and exchanges ObamaCare uses to expand individual insurance to the middle class. Ryan’s subsidy formula is designed to cap and restrain the growth of Medicare; Romney has yet to say how he’ll calculate the subsidies, or even roughly how generous they would be.
But there’s another important difference. Ryan proposed improving the current system by transforming the current system’s essentially unlimited benefit—and thus its ever-expanding cost to taxpayers—into one in which spending is capped per beneficiary. Romney, on the other hand, wants to add a layer of private insurance on top of the existing government-run Medicare insurance system, which would continue to operate alongside the newly subsidized private plans. He not only wants to preserve today’s Medicare system for current seniors, he appears to want to preserve it—and its unlimited benefit—for anyone and everyone going forward.
Politically, this allows the pandering Mittster to have it both ways…
The political advantages should be obvious. On the one hand, unlike Ryan, he can’t be accused of “ending Medicare as we know it.” He gets to position himself as a protector of Medicare (the entitlement section of his proposal is titled “Preserve Entitlements.”) On the other hand, he gets to talk about Medicare using key GOP buzzwords like“choice,” “competition,” and “private insurance.”
…while in reality slowly destroying the private insurance market and, ultimately, replacing one unsustainable government health care system with another:
On a policy level, the idea, Romney explains, is to “encourage insurers to lower costs and compete on the quality of their offerings.” But as Ezra Klein has already explained, that was the oft-stated idea behind the liberal proposal to include a government-run “public option” in ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges. What liberal supporters of the public option said less often was that many, including the idea’s designer, hoped it would provide a slow-but-steady path to single-payer, as private insurers slowly dropped out of the market unable to “compete” with a heavily subsidized, artificially low-priced government-run insurance plan. (Read how a public option for property insurance has displaced private offerings in Florida.)
Romney’s plan, limited to seniors, probably wouldn’t lead to nationwide single payer system, except perhaps the one we already have: Medicare. In other words, it might lead to a seniors’ health care system once again dominated by a government-run insurance—essentially canceling itself out.
I’m told there are conservatives out there who are considering holding their noses and voting for Romney on the basis of his claim that his first priority will be to end ObamaCare. I have a question for those individuals: How is Romney’s proposal to effectively extend ObamaCare to seniors consistent with his promise to end it? Just asking. Read Suderman’s entire article here.