House Speaker Paul Ryan has done nothing to indicate that privatizing Medicare isn't at the very top of his agenda in the new Congress, with a new president. In fact, while everyone in the GOP is a little unsure of what they'll do about Obamacare, they know they want to gut Medicare and do it fast.
So it's worth remembering that Ryan's plan isn't just hugely unpopular and dangerous—it's also premised on some pretty big lies.
"What people don’t realize is, because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke." — House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), interview with Fox News, Nov. 10
Our eyebrows went up when we saw this quote from Ryan. It has been a bipartisan fallacy to claim that the old-age health program Medicare is going "broke," which is incorrect […]. But what was notable was he specifically blamed the Affordable Care Act for making Medicare go broke.
That’s doubly wrong. Let’s explain.
The explanations: no, it's not going broke. As of now, the trust fund can maintain everyone who needs it until 2028. After that, without intervention, it would start paying out less benefits. Not "no" benefits. Reduced. That's if there isn't an intervention of some kind to further cut costs, enroll younger, healthier people, increase payroll taxes, or any other of many good policy options to keep it going.
One of those policy options? Keeping Obamacare. Because Obamacare isn't making it go broke—not at all.
In fact, Obamacare has saved Medicare money, and extended the program's solvency by 12 years. It did increase payroll taxes on wages and self-employment income of wealthy Americans—above $250,000 per couple or $200,000 for a single taxpayer—by 0.9 percent. It also put in place a number of quality control measures that are working to keep costs down. Not to mention saving a lot of lives. No, what would make Medicare instantly face insolvency again is repealing Obamacare and all that stuff—like the increased payroll taxes—that are working to keep the program sound.
Will Ryan really do it? There are lots of good pro and con arguments for his doing it on the fast track he seems to be promising. Or he could put his finger to the wind and realize that it's just not that good of an idea, electorally speaking.