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Do Reps. Bachmann and Paulsen want to privatize Medicare?

DNC is “tweaking” its misleading its accusing Repubs of wanting to abolish Medicare
By Eric Black

Sigh. If you’re just joining the fairly annoying insult to honest discourse that I mentioned the other day:

The Democratic National Committee has been running a TV ad accusing Republicans in general and 10 members in particular (including Minnesotans Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen) of wanting to “end, “abolish” and “kill” Medicare. FactCheck.org found the ad to be untrue and I agree. Republicans did attach a policy statement to their alternative budget resolution proposing that Medicare be turned into a voucher program where future retirees would be given federal funds with which to purchase health insurance. Although this would be a fairly radical change in Medicare, it would not “abolish” it.

The RNC was able to convince Time-Warner that the ad was false, and they pulled it off the air in five of the markets in which it was running (but it remained on the air in Minnesota and other markets not served by Time Warner).

The Dems say they will “tweak” the ad to deal with Time Warner’s objections, according to DNC Midwest Spokester Frank Benenati and expect to have it back up by tomorrow. Benanati declined to divulge exactly how the tweaks would change the ad, but did say that DNC does not believe the ad was false, disagrees with FactCheck’s harsh review, and said (although I’ll believe this when I see the new ad text) that the new ad would absolutely continue to assert that the Republican plan is to end, kill and abolish Medicare.

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All of that strikes me as partisan overhype. But I will say that I was previously unaware of the Repub plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. This is a large, daring, radical idea, perhaps on par with former Pres. Bush’s idea of partially privatizing Social Security. I always go out of my way to refer to Bush’s plan was a “partial” privatization, because his proposal would have diverted only a portion of social security into optional private investment accounts. But as far as I can tell, the plan for Medicare in the Repub budget proposal could fairly be termed a total privatization or at least voucherization of Medicare. The basic idea is that when Americans who are now 55 and younger turn 65, instead of traditional Medicare (under which the government pays directly for seniors’ health care expenses), the new seniors would get an amount of money, roughly equal to what a typical Medicare recipient gets, but would use that to shop the marketplace of private insurance plans. The amount would be adjusted to reflect the age, health and income of the recipient.

I suspect that if the Dems would describe the plan more accurately, they could still scare the hell out of America about what the Republicans are proposing.

So it occurred to me to wonder whether everyone who voted for that Republican budget document (which, of course, covers almost everything the federal government does) necessarily favors the idea. So I asked the spokesters for the two Minnesotans targeted by the DNC, both whom voted for the budget document, whether they fairly the Medicare voucherization idea contained within it.

The results were disappointing. Michele Bachmann released a statement that didn’t commit her to the idea, although spoke respectfully about it, but that was a profile in courage compared to Erik Paulsen who has declined to respond despite repeated requests and waiting several days for a statement.

Bachmann spokester Dave Dziok sent his statement on behalf of his boss:

“At this point in time, I can tell you it’s an option, among others, that needs further study and consideration as we figure out the best way to implement the program for future generations.”

But after several requests for an answer from Paulsen going back to last week, Paulsen’s office has not been willing to say whether he supports the Repub Medicare proposal, even though he voted for a document that contained the proposal.