You know that whole schtick from the Republicans about how anybody over 55 won't be affected at all by their draconian budget and Medicare elimination scheme? They're lying about that two. That's according to analysis by Tim Fernholz writing at the National Journal
"The retirees are going to be taken care of; there's no ifs, ands, or buts about it," House Speaker John Boehner vowed in an interview with CBS last month. The plan's architect, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has said time and again that the changes wouldn't affect anybody getting close to retirement. "We propose to not change the benefits for people above the age of 55," Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, insisted last week.
There's only one problem with the strategy: It's not true.
The policies in the House GOP budget, if enacted, would begin affecting millions of seniors almost immediately by increasing their costs for prescription drugs and probably long-term care. Further, Medicare costs could rise over time if healthier seniors choose to abandon the traditional benefit program.
The proposal repeals the Affordable Care Act (except for the Medicare Advantage cuts, which Republicans continue to hammer Democrats for, even though they've now also voted for them twice). With that, Fernholz points out, goes the closing of the "donut hole," the prescription drug benefit gap. In repealing that, "the 3 million to 4 million seniors left in the doughnut hole each year would immediately face significant out-of-pocket costs."
In addition, there are a number of wellness programs in the ACA that will benefit seniors, including visits to physicians, cancer screenings, and smoking cessation programs. That goes away without the ACA. There's the additional possibility that when the voucher program kicked in in 2022, seniors in traditional Medicare would be able to switch to the voucher program, and it's possible that the younger and more healthy seniors could save out-of-pocket expenses by making the switch, leaving the traditional Medicare pool older, sicker, and more expensive. Which in turn would create higher costs per enrollee, and potentially higher premiums and/or limited provider reimbursements. That, in turn, would probably drive more providers out of the program.
But probably the largest and most frightening cut for seniors and their families is in long-term care, included in the Medicaid cuts the Republicans want.
Some 9 million seniors qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and about two-thirds of all nursing-home residents are covered by Medicaid. The GOP budget proposes cutting some $744 billion from Medicaid over 10 years by turning the system into block grants that limit federal contributions and give states more choice in structuring benefits. No one knows exactly which Medicaid services states would choose to cut back, but senior citizens account for a disproportionate share of Medicaid outlays and would almost certainly bear some of the burden.
"We know that two-thirds of the dollars in Medicaid go to people who are disabled or over 65, so this is the big funder of long-term care in this country," said David Certner, AARP's legislative-policy director. "We also know this could have an impact on home- and community-based care, which is the kind of care individuals prefer the most [and] often the ones that will be cut first."
There's nothing in this proposal that's going to help the either current or future seniors, not to mention the disabled who are on Medicare and Medicaid. It's just bad policy all the way around.