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Is America Still Beautiful without Medicare? | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Is America Still Beautiful without Medicare?

In 1965, the US made Medicare law. Today, Medicare provides primary healthcare for 46 million Americans, more than half of whom subsist on less than $28,000 a year. Now, Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, want to privatize the system and give more say -- and money -- to the insurance industry.

The problems with this plan are legion: It would use Medicare funds to enrich the private insurance firms that have generously donated to Ryan's campaigns through a system of vouchers and block grants to the states. Vouchers may sound like a great idea. Why not allow people to go to whatever healthcare provider they want? The catch is that there is no assurance in Ryan's plan that companies will provide insurance at a reasonable rate to everyone, especially senior citizens.

In other words, Medicare, a free-for-service program which itself pays for healthcare procedures for most beneficiaries and stipulates a range of services, procedures and cap costs, would be replaced by a privatized system to be determined by the health insurance industry.

Moreover, as Paul Krugman recently contended, Ryan's economic rationale for the plan is equally specious: "The point is that privatizing Medicare does nothing, in itself, to limit health-care costs. In fact, it almost surely raises them by adding a layer of middlemen. Yet the House plan assumes that we can cut health-care spending as a percentage of G.D.P. despite an aging population and rising health care costs."

As Erica Payne, founder and head of The Agenda Project and a good friend of The Nation, aptly summarized, “Paul Ryan’s plan will give health care decisions for elderly Americans to insurance corporations. Spreadsheets with plus and minus signs have no business being in charge of the health of our grandmothers and grandfathers.”

To further highlight the regressive nature of the plan, the Agenda Project just released a striking new video dramatically illuminating the consequences of the plan on our nation's elderly population.

After watching the video, please post it to your Facebook page and/or Twitter feed and then call Ryan's Congressional office at 202-225-3031 and politely implore him to call off his effort to eliminate Medicare.

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