September 12, 2012
How Ryan's Medicare Plan Would Affect My Almost-54-Year-Old Son and Everyone Younger
The debate about the Ryan Medicare plan has focused on the proposal to introduce a voucher program, with traditional Medicare as one of many options. That plan wouldn't take effect for 10 years. Everyone now 55 or older (not just those 65-plus) would be assured of continued coverage.
So far, there's not been much debate about that aspect of the plan. Let's take my son, who will turn 54 in December, as an example. In the unlikely event that Ryan's plan is enacted next year, my son -- and everyone his age and younger -- would have to continue paying taxes for the next ten years to subsidize Medicare. Then, when he's ready to retire, he'll be told, "Sorry, you are no longer automatically entitled to Medicare. It might be one of your choices. Then again, it might not."
Thus, under the Ryan plan, most Baby Boomers would be assured of Medicare coverage... EXCEPT those born in 1959 and later.
The 2010 Census shows about 77 million people 55 and older, about 25% of the 308 million total. Those same 77 million would be supported by only 158 WORKING-AGE fellow-Americans. In a nutshell, every 55-and-older's benefits would be supported by only TWO working people.
Strangely, recent polls show younger people more supportive of the Romney/Ryan plan than seniors. I guess younger generations assume that nothing like their father's Medicare will be available to them (they're right), and they like the fact that Romney/Ryan at lease promises them something.
Do Obama and the Democrats Have Something Better to Offer My Son?
The short answer is no. Medicare needs to be restructured. It's one of the most important issues we face, and it must be addressed now, not in ten years. Obama's Affordable Care Act made a welcome start, but more needs to be done.
But both political parties avoid proposing necessary changes to Medicare for today's beneficiaries. The reason is simple: seniors vote in larger numbers than younger Americans, and the leading edge of the Baby Boom Generation (the pig in our political python) is retiring now. AARP threatens politicians with extinction if they even think about making major changes to "Medicare as we know it." That organization, as its numbers grow, will only become more powerful, rivaling the National Rife Association in its ability to prevent major reforms.
I've just come across an excellent analysis -- "Who's telling the truth about Medicare?" -- by one of the nation's leading health care experts. I'll take up that issue tomorrow.