It seems like there’s a demagoguery machine working full tilt these days to churn out scaremongering from the left over House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R–WI) 2012 budget resolution passed by the House earlier this month.
Much of it focuses on Ryan’s proposal to provide premium support to Medicare enrollees, assisting them to purchase a health care plan of their choice. As Heritage’s Robert Moffit and Kathryn Nix write, it’s modeled after the plan that federal workers and employees enjoy, and it would introduce intense competition in a consumer-driven market, which has historically slowed the growth of health care costs and increased patient satisfaction.
That proposal was enough to kick the left’s demagoguery machine into high gear. Here are three examples of their heightened state of alarmist rhetoric:
Exhibit 1: Representative Steve Rothman’s (D–NJ) op-ed, “Killing Medicare won’t solve nation’s problems”
Representative Rothman does quite a job of spinning the Ryan plan, claiming, “For those tens of millions affected, and for all future generations, the Republican plan ends Medicare and ‘privatizes’ health care for American seniors.” Rothman writes that the plan could leave American seniors uninsured, and he invites the reader to see the world through his mind’s eye:
Imagine the suffering, pain and terror for those tens of millions of seniors under those circumstances. Where would they turn? Charity? Family members? Early death? And why?
Suffering, pain, and death? It’s hard to imagine a more vivid mischaracterization of the plan. In reality, seniors would receive a contribution to spend on any health plan that best meets their needs (providing the plan meets guidelines intended to protect consumers, while also allowing choice and competition). Those who have more need—the older, sicker, and poorer—would receive additional assistance to ensure no one goes without coverage.
Exhibit 2: “How could the GOP budget affect you?” brought to you by House Democrats in the Committee on Education & the Workforce
Are you a preschooler? Student? Young adult? Middle-aged worker? Retired worker? According to House Democrats, you’ve got some bad news coming your way. In a whimsically illustrated chart (see one of their graphics, above), they predict dire straits under the Ryan plan. If you’re a preschooler, for example, they warn that you could “LOSE health care if you or your family is low income or has a medical condition.” If you’re a retired worker, they warn that you could:
• LOSE Medicare benefits and guarantee;
• LOSE nursing home coverage;
• Be stuck with the prescription drug donut hole;
• Have NO health care cost containment.
Again, the reality is much different. The Ryan plan empowers seniors to make their own choices and repeals Obamacare to eliminate the negative effects it will have on every American, paving the way for real health care reform that expands access and lower costs without growing government.
Exhibit 3: Representative Ryan’s plan will lead to rationing, says Donald Berwick, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
In an interview with Politico, Berwick unabashedly says Ryan’s plan rations health care: “If you look at the proposed withdrawals of support to Medicare beneficiaries and Medicaid, it’s withholding care from the people who need the care. You tell me what that is?” And more ominously, he paints a picture of an America where children won’t have health care:
When I read proposals for reform that say, ‘Sorry kid, you’re on your own,’ that’s the not the country I want to be in,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s the country the public wants to be in.
Ironically, Berwick has gone on the record—several times—as a passionate supporter of socialized medicine and claims, “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care—the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”
Berwick might want to demagogue the issue, but in order to preserve Medicare for future generations, its looming unfunded obligations must be addressed. The right way to reduce spending is complete transformation of the program in a way that empowers patients and allows market forces to achieve better value for each dollar spent. The only other option is to empower government to reduce costs from the top down, which would entail across the board cuts, restricted access to providers, and more government intrusion into health care decisions.
The truth about the Ryan plan is much different than its detractors would have America believe, but their attacks are par for the course given the utter lack of seriousness accompanying the left’s approach to the budget crisis.