The nomination of Paul Ryan for the office of vice president has again raised the specter of his “Path to Prosperity” plan as it relates to the future of Medicare. While the Republicans are trying to cast this plan as a way to “save” Medicare, in fact it will destroy it in the year 2022.
Ryan’s plan (and his 2012 update), as clearly articulated, would substitute a voucher system, and return us to the private sector for coverage of seniors. However, in presenting the plan, Ryan and other conservatives consistently make it clear – the plan would not affect today’s seniors, who will remain on Medicare.
That is an overt attempt to mollify today’s seniors and elicit their support. Why? They know how objectionable this plan really is to seniors (present and future). Thankfully, thus far, the plan has failed, but that did not assuage most of my senior contemporaries. In fact, to their credit, it is today’s seniors who are leading the fight to get this terrible plan set back (but unfortunately not now forgotten). As a 79-year-old senior myself who has enjoyed the benefits of Medicare for over a decade, I want to offer kudos to my peer group for its unflinching preservation of this excellent program as we know it today.
Meanwhile, since it’s not “our” ox being gored, why then is it TODAY’S seniors who are fighting the good fight to retain Medicare in the future? Here are a few good reasons:
American history is filled with the actions of groups who fight for causes that are more relevant to future generations than their own. In a sense that was part of the American Revolution. It is also true of union activism – with raises and rights that benefit future workers even more than those who battle for them. And it is always true of long-range social programs. To this end, I see today’s seniors as fighting not for a valued benefit (Medicare) that they enjoy, but showing a concern for their children and grandchildren who will face the health-care challenges years ahead. Changes are needed, but not vouchers.
Making a statement
The seniors who now participate in Medicare desire to make a clear statement: This is a plan we like, we appreciate, we use, and is of signficant value. The fact that we will continue to enjoy it also makes a statement to those who follow us, it is something you should have as well. And we will help you retain it.
As owner and manager of my own business for 45 years, I early on noticed that it is unwise to castigate employees in front of others. The reason: When an employee sees you reaming out another one, the thought goes through his/her mind: “If this is the way he treats people, I could be next!” So it is with the Ryan plan to disassemble Medicare. True, it is now only relevant to folks 55 and under, and it would not take effect until 10 years from now. But having said that, today’s seniors also fear that once it were passed, the same people who are trying to eliminate Medicare might also then ramp up the timetable and make it effective sooner to eventually affect them. After all, the ultimate goal of Ryan and his compatriots is to fully privatize health care in America; given that objective, there is no reason to believe they will not attempt to do it sooner rather than later.
Finally, I like to attribute the best motives to my generation. And that would be that they see certain government programs (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security among them) as being valuable components of a well-run, fair, healthy, and secure society. Thus, the retention of Medicare for future generations means a better America now and in the future.
The motives of Ryan and other conservatives are transparent. Under the guise of mitigating the deficit, they are attempting to make serious and significant social reforms in our country by eliminating government programs they dislike, and privatizing all that they are able to. Medicare seems an easy target. Yes, it has some fiscal challenges, but the Ryan solution to destroy it in favor of a private program is not only less desirable to seniors but also had its own suspect cost projections. Instead, today’s seniors would buy into preserving Medicare by accepting tweaks and changes that would make it more fiscally viable for the future.
Ryan’s original failed plan does have some value for today’s seniors, however, because it gives a quick but highly instructive “peek” at the way Romney, Ryan and conservatives are striving to reshape America. And most seniors do not like what they see, at least when it comes to their health care. To that end, it may be a marker that seniors will use when going to the voting booth on Nov. 6.
Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.