The Maryland Public Policy Institute
If you’ve been around politics for even a short amount of time you know one fact: seniors vote. Politicians target seniors in every race from judge of orphan’s court to the presidency because they know that a senior is more likely to make it to the polls than a younger person. And so in every election you see politicians demonizing and distorting their opponents’ positions on issues in order to frighten seniors. Gov. O’Malley, in his role on the national stage as surrogate for President Obama, is playing this game as well as anyone. But in his attempts to demonize Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan on Medicare, he’s ignoring the facts in order to garner votes.
According to the Baltimore Sun:
On Medicare, O'Malley said, "the differences really go to the heart of the country we want to become." He charged that the Medicare changes called for in Ryan's proposed budget would force seniors to pay more for coverage under a voucher-based system.
Robert Moffit of the Heritage Foundation points out the facts about a premium support program like the one offered by Rep. Ryan:
Medicare premiums are already scheduled to increase substantially under current law. A transition from a defined benefit to a defined contribution would not necessarily increase premiums over current projections. Indeed, with premium support, premiums could increase at a slower rate than current-law projections or even decline.
Under premium support, the government’s contribution would be based on an annual process of regional or national competitive bidding among health plans; a market-based contribution, whether set at an average or a low-cost bid, would thus be tied to real health spending trends.
This market-based bidding process, designed to yield a real market payment, could reduce initial costs for enrollees and taxpayers alike. Whatever the market-based contribution, enrollees would be free to buy plans above or below the government’s specified amount, paying more if they wish or paying less and securing the savings.
What Gov. O’Malley and the critics of the Ryan budget plan are doing is spreading fear about constructive changes to Medicare in order to gain votes. They are not making a rational policy critique; they are simply playing politics. That’s expected, given that Gov. O’Malley is a politician, but it’s a dangerous thing to do. Medicare reform is essential to the fiscal health of our country. The growth in Medicare spending has to be reduced if our country is going to avoid a Greek-style fiscal crisis.
To be fair, it’s not only Democrats who are engaging in such demagoguery. Republicans who are attacking ObamaCare for “cutting” Medicare are just as irresponsible. They, too, are trying to scare seniors in order to win votes in the next election; they aren’t engaging in a true debate on the very important issues surrounding Medicare and ObamaCare.
The inclusion of Paul Ryan on Mitt Romney’s ticket made me hope that our electorate could engage in a serious debate about what our entitlement programs should look like in the future. Everyone who seriously examines the federal budget knows these programs must be reformed, and few in Congress have done more to champion reform than Rep. Ryan. But, instead, his selection has simply turned into another way that politicians can demonstrate that they care more about votes than our fiscal future. It’s unfortunate that the governor of our fine state has once again proven himself to be a typical politician in this regard.
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