Friday, August 31, 2012

The Truth About Medicare

Medicare was designed as a guarantee that citizens over 65 will have adequate medical care regardless of how healthy or wealthy they are.  The Romney/Ryan plan would change this.

Romney and Ryan both call for turning Medicare into a voucher system. Seniors would be given a certain amount of money each year to buy health insurance on their own. If that amount isn’t enough to pay for the kind of coverage you need, you pay the difference out of pocket. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, this will force seniors to pay an average of $6,500 a year more for their insurance.

Because of the system in place today, Medicare's size allows the government to negotiate its rates. However, if it loses many of its healthier enrollees to private insurers (because they feel they can do without insurance), Medicare will likely lose bargaining power with its providers, making it harder and costlier for seniors who need healthcare.

Unlike the Romney-Ryan plan, President Obama’s plan actually achieves billions in savings without cutting payments to Medicare beneficiaries.

Prior to the new healthcare law –under the Medicare Part D program—seniors initially paid 25 percent of their medication costs while Medicare paid the rest. However, once they reached a certain spending limit (the coverage gap commonly known as the “donut hole”), beneficiaries were required to pay the full costs of their prescription drugs out of pocket.

What Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ie. Obamacare) does is make the program more affordable by gradually closing the donut hole and reducing wasteful spending by private insurers. This will lower premiums, increase savings, and extend the life of Medicare ( click here for more details ).

The Romney-Ryan plan, by contrast, achieves its savings by turning Medicare into a voucher whose value doesn't keep up with expected increases in healthcare costs -- thereby shifting the burden onto Medicare beneficiaries.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to turn Medicare over to the private market. And as was the case before Obamacare, where private insurers dropped coverage for patients who had preexisting conditions and were deemed “risky”, seniors would face the same fate.

The underlining message is who should bear the burden. Time and time again, whether it is with Romney’s plan to lower the tax rates for the top percent (which means that taxes on the middle-class will be higher); or with Romney’s plan to decrease the size of the federal government (even when states are barely able to keep teachers police officers on payroll), we have seen the Republican Party shift greater burdens to people with less bargaining power.

But what Republicans need to understand is that we’re all interdependent on one another in all walks of life.

That is the choice in this election. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Need for Growth

"I came in and the jobs had been just falling off a cliff. I came in and they kept falling for 11 months and then we turned around and we're coming back. And that's progress. And if you're going to suggest to me that somehow the day I got elected, somehow jobs should immediately turn around, why that would be silly. It takes a while to get things turned around.”
-Governor Mitt Romney (Press Conference, 6/24/2006)

Although our economy has created 4.5 million new jobs since President Obama took office; although we have prevented another Great Depression; and although Democrats have been continuously fighting to create more jobs, we need to continue promoting policies that have been proven to work, and discontinue those that have failed.

Many of these failed policies stem from the notion that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Since our nation’s founding, we have depended upon a strong national government to open up opportunity, ensure equality, encourage competition, and keep our democracy strong. Thus, the only way to continue improving the state of our union is to understand that government is not the cause of our problems, but rather the solution to them.

The government shouldn’t decide who gets married. But in the same way that government needed to step in when certain states enacted the racist Jim Crowe laws that restricted certain freedoms to a minority group, we need a government that can stand up for all those who are discriminated against.

The government shouldn’t tell a business owner how to run his/her business. But if the actions of a company impedes on the free market opportunities of other businesses, as is the case with monopolies or companies that are “too big to fail”, then we need government to enact certain regulations that strengthen the principles of capitalism.

The government shouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to bailout certain industries. But when there are no private lenders willing to invest in an industry that creates millions of domestic jobs and is essential to the economic prosperity of a nation, we need government to step in and save jobs.

The government shouldn’t dictate how private health insurers treat their customers. But when insurance companies mislead patients and misuse premium dollars, we need government to “promote the General Welfare” of its citizens and strengthen the privately-run healthcare industry to provide access and affordable care to all.

And the government shouldn’t enact policies that raise taxes on the wealthiest. But when this class of citizens pays a significantly lower effective tax rate than the rest of society, or when their lower rates come at the expense of middle-class families, we need government to ensure that “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” (Obama).

Clearly we are on the right track and we’re making progress. But in order to ensure that we continue to move this country forward, we need another term for President Obama and the continued leadership of the Democrats.