Donald Trump promised to protect it. Paul Ryan wants to dismantle it as does Rep. Tom Price, Trump's pick to head the Health and Human Services Department. Democrats—Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer included—are daring Republicans to savage a program that provides health care to one of their most loyal voting demographics—seniors.
Medicare is fast becoming a political hot potato for Republicans now that they will control every part of the federal government. GOP senators, in particular, are sounding a little leery of Paul Ryan's "Better Way," which includes replacing Medicare with a voucher system that provides limited subsidies for people to buy private insurance (i.e. privatizing Medicare). Ryan and Price have both linked a Medicare overhaul to their effort to repeal Obamacare. Not so fast, writes Sahil Kapur:
"That falls under the rule of not biting off more than you can chew," [GOP] Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an interview. "The problems about the solvency of Medicare should be left for another debate, another discussion, and not be part of the replace and repeal" effort on Obamacare. [...]
Republican Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Chuck Grassley of Iowa all stopped short of endorsing the idea Tuesday, when asked if they want to turn Medicare into a "premium support" system in 2017.
Meanwhile Democrats are cheering the prospect as they recall battling George W. Bush's privatization effort, which many credit with the Democrats' successful takeover of the House in the 2006 midterms.
"Just as their efforts failed then, they will fail now. We say to our Republicans who want to privatize Medicare, we say: go try it. Make our day," Schumer said.
Also, Trump appears to be readying to abandon his Medicare promise with language saying he now wants to "modernize" the program.
Since his victory, Trump may be opening the door to the idea, between the Price choice and new language on his transition website that echoes proponents of privatizing Medicare. The website says Trump wants to "modernize" Medicare "so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation -- and beyond."
A Trump transition-team spokesman didn't return a request for comment.
Pursuing such a Medicare transformation would be "a radical departure" and "a direct violation of what Trump said" in the campaign, said Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. "He's breaking his promise. He'll also lose."
Really, it's gonna be pretty interesting to see all those Fox News watching seniors absorbing the news. Nothing's more user friendly for seniors than more paperwork and haggling with private insurers. Oh, and btw, repealing Obamacare is a recipe for bankrupting Medicare fast.
An added complication would arise if Republicans succeed at repealing Obamacare, which could mean restoring the law's $700 billion in reimbursement cuts to Medicare providers and thereby shortening its solvency, which currently extends to 2024.