ObamaCare, Not RyanCare, Harms Current Seniors

Health Reform Report
May 16, 2011
By Jim Martin and Colin Hanna

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the new Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, recently described Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposed conversion of Medicare into a premium support system as a “death trap” for seniors, somehow failing to note that it doesn’t even apply to current seniors. Given that it only applies to those 54 and younger, it can’t harm seniors in the least, let alone be a death trap.

Democrats’ latest “Medi-scare” attempt is to be expected in today’s hyper-partisan environment, but what is truly outrageous is their blatant hypocrisy considering the new health reform law does harm current seniors with more than $1 trillion in Medicare cuts that are already being implemented.

With a $14.3 trillion debt and climbing, and unsustainable entitlements like Medicare at the heart of the problem, cuts to the program are inevitable and are components of both “ObamaCare” and “RyanCare.” But as always in public policy, the devil is in the details.

The detailed reality is that ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts will lead to:

1) Half of seniors with Medicare Advantage will lose these popular plans.

2) Fifteen percent of hospitals will shut their doors.

3) More and more physicians will refuse to see Medicare enrollees as the program’s reimbursement rates falls below Medicaid’s abhorrently low levels. That coupled with the impending doctor shortage will prompt many physicians to only see patients with higher-paying private plans.

Under ObamaCare, Medicare is set to join Medicaid as a medical ghetto with limited access to high quality care and greater access to low quality care.

Add this to the pile of public policy disasters, there is something else in the ObamaCare law called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a body unlike Congress, which the public can not hold accountable for its actions.

IPAB is a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats charged with keeping Medicare below a hard spending cap and unilaterally empowered with the tool of reducing provider reimbursement rates in order to stay below that cap. Quite simply, it is a Medicare rationing board. It begins its work in 2015.

About 17 percent of doctors (and 31 percent of primary-care physicians) already limit the number of Medicare patients they see due to Medicare’s low reimbursement rates. Once IPAB institutes further cuts, more physicians will refuse to see Medicare enrollees. In fact, a November survey from the Physician’s Foundation found that 52 percent of physicians said ObamaCare would force them “to close or significantly restrict their practices to Medicare patients.”

Shockingly, the President recently proposed empowering IPAB even further, specifically calling for reducing the spending cap even further.

Thankfully the American people recognize the threat of such a powerful unelected board, with a recent Let Freedom Ring survey. It found that 64 percent disapprove of it, including 48 percent of self-identified Democrats.

And seniors aren’t fooled by the Democrats “Medi-scare” tactics either. Last week Gallup found that 48 percent of seniors support RyanCare, while only 42 percent support ObamaCare.

Seniors clearly understand that while ObamaCare jeopardizes their access to care, RyanCare actually keeps our generational promise to them, and further, gives them the peace of mind that there will be a sustainable Medicare program for their children and grandchildren.

Martin is Chairman of the 60 Plus Association and Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring.