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Because it's better than not banging at Hillary's headquarters.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Damage Control: Medicare Privatization

As I mentioned overnight, I will be creating a list of things that Democrats have to try to block the Republicans are doing, and trying to come up with ideas for how we can do so.

I've been warning people around me for more than a decade that Medicare was on the chopping block if the Republicans ever consolidated power. The response was usually, "They wouldn't really do that. The seniors would protest." Well, it appears to be the first item on dead-eyed Paul Ryan's agenda, and it's coming soon to a country near you:

Paul Ryan has been pushing to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance for several years. But now it's real with unified Republican government. He just said he will try to rush it through early next year while repealing Obamacare.
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There are a couple key points to note here. 
First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress. Precisely the opposite is true. And it's so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare's solvency by more than a decade. Ryan's claim is flat out false. 
Second, I've heard a few people say that it's not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare Phase Out. It is 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It's on his website. It's explained explicitly right there. 
Ryan says current beneficiaries will be allowed to keep their Medicare. Says. It's the cord is cut between current and future beneficiaries, everything is fair game. For those entering the system, Ryan proposes phasing out Medicare and replacing it private insurance with subsidies to help seniors afford the private insurance. That is unquestionably what it means because that is what Ryan says. So if you're nearing retirement and looking forward to going on Medicare, good luck. You're go on to private insurance but you'll get some subsidies from the government to pay the bill.

So yes, he's planning to do it, and I don't even know why he's bothering to lie about it at this point. Unless Mitch McConnell is not going to kill the filibuster (and I see no reason why not), this will be fairly easy for him to do legislatively. Practically, it's a lot more difficult (making the move to private insurance subsidies, if it can be done at all, will be pretty tough to pull off). It wouldn't shock me if he just left us with nothing.

We could protest, but as I mentioned in another post, Republicans just aren't grassroots people. Nobody other than their donors are asking for this. People love Medicare, and Ryan knows it. Still, if he could get rid of Medicare taxes, that's more money in the pockets of billionaires. Say he replaces Medicare and Social Security (that's coming too) with nothing, and gets rid of the 7.65% payroll tax on both the employee and employer side for them. Yes, that's $3,825 annually in the pocket of someone making $50,000. However, one cancer surgery could cost $200,000 and that would no longer be covered. And that person would also likely not receive $15,000+ annually in Social Security after turning 65. And from an employer with 5,000 employees, they're saving $19,000,000+ per year, which of course will not go back into the hands of employees. Additionally, and this is probably more important to employers, it leaves workers with no guarantee of anything when they retire, so the employees will do anything to keep their jobs, even if it means significantly lower pay.

Like nearly everything else the Republicans are chomping at the bit to do, this is horrible for the American worker.

In the absence of a legislative solution, what can we do? Outright protests against "privatization" (just like with "repeal and replace Obamacare." I'm pretty sure they'll replace it with nothing)? Mass targeting of Republicans 55+ for defection from the party?

For each of these issues, I'll be looking for thoughts and out-of-the-box solutions from readers. There are plenty of others coming.

Any thoughts? List 'em in the comments.

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