GOP’s confused support of current public health-care options

The Washington Independent wrote recently about the oddity of congressional Republicans blasting the thought of creating a public plan while at the same time lauding the virtues and successes of Medicare, which just happens to be a government-run public plan. Well, they’re still at it.

Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., a member of the Gang of Six, gave the Republicans’ weekly radio address over the weekend, warning that the Democrats plan to “raid Medicare.”

“This would result in cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from the elderly to create new government programs,” Enzi cautioned. “Savings from Medicare should only be used to strengthen Medicare.”

Two thoughts. First, by dumping any savings from Medicare back into Medicare, you won’t have set the program on a more sustainable path, which is largely the reason we’re having this reform debate to begin with.

And second, it was a Republican Congress under the Bush administration that created both Medicare’s prescription drug benefit and Medicare Advantage — new government programs that don’t come cheap. Indeed, the cost to treat the average MA patient is 14 percent more than the cost to treat a senior under traditional Medicare, with much of that going to cover marketing, administration and profits for the private insurers that manage MA plans. The extra costs are covered in part by increasing premiums for all seniors in Medicare, even those not enrolled in MA.

So by GOP logic, it’s OK to hike seniors’ premiums to fund Medicare’s privatization, but not OK to rein in those private-plan overpayments for the sake of covering the 46 million uninsured Americans too young to qualify for Medicare.

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Mike Lillis

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