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Calvin L. Schaible, Published May 05 2011

Congressman Berg realistic about the future of Medicare

I attended Congressman Rick Berg’s, R-N.D., Fargo town hall meeting. Democratic partisans were out in full force. They seemed more interested in making political speeches than in asking questions.

Partisans in the crowd waited dutifully for applause lines like “don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor” and “make the rich pay their fair share of taxes.” Even though Berg explained to the crowd that the Medicare component of the Republican “Path to Prosperity” was not a voucher plan, partisans insisted that it was.

In my world, a voucher plan means that the money goes directly to the beneficiary. This does not happen under the “Path to Prosperity” plan. The funds would be used to help seniors purchase their own private insurance – a concept called “premium support.” The money would go to the medical plan selected by the beneficiary. The average amount per beneficiary in 2022 would be $15,000 – with the poor and the unhealthy getting more and the rich and the healthy getting less.

Additionally, lower-income seniors would also get $9,500 contributed to a Medical Savings Account to use for out-of-pocket health care expenses. Indigent seniors would also remain dual eligible for Medicaid coverage. Also, this plan does not change Medicare for those already receiving benefits or for those 55 years old and older. They remain under the current Medicare plan. The “Path to Prosperity” plan would eventually cover those 54 years of age and younger. To call this a voucher program is nonsense.

The Democrats at the town hall meeting continue to play the “fear” and the “envy” cards. They want the seniors to believe that the Republicans want them thrown out of the nursing homes and that the “greedy rich” want them to eat dog food. It is a despicable tactic that is not as politically successful as it once was. More and more seniors are seeing through this demagoguery.

Increasingly, these folks understand that an economy with a GDP of about

$15 trillion and a national debt of over $14 trillion cannot pay for a federal program with an unfunded mandate of about $38 trillion – much less anything else. Something must be done to control costs.

Democrats don’t want to talk about rationing of care and “death panels.” Yet, if you strip away the flowery language in their plan, this is exactly what they are offering as their alternative. You cannot cut $500 billion from Medicare and add 30 million new folks to the rolls and tell me there will not be rationing and denial of care. There will be.

Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Berg deserve our thanks. They are addressing the problems of health care cost and access – and they are doing it in a way that preserves the rights and liberties of the individual. Let’s hope Democrats will give up their ideology and join them in this noble effort. We want freedom, not statism.

Schaible is an occasional contributor to The Forum’s opinion/commentary pages.