By Teresa Welsh |
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, and with Ryan comes the congressman's controversial budget plan. Romney is now endorsing the budget, and with it the provision that would overhaul the Medicare system.
Medicare, the health insurance plan for seniors, is an entitlement program many fiscal conservatives point to as a primary cause of the massive federal budget deficit. Ryan's Medicare plan would replace the current system with payments made directly to seniors, which they could then use to purchase health insurance in the private market. Those using the current system would remain under it, but in 2023, seniors would begin buying their insurance in an exchange system where Medicare would compete with private health insurance companies. Ryan says this competition will reduce the overall cost of healthcare, and the government's financial responsibility to the system.
Democrats argue that cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare unfairly target seniors at the expense of tax breaks for major corporations. They say the plan will shift too high a percentage of healthcare costs to seniors, because if they select a plan more expensive than the voucher they receive, they will be responsible for paying the difference out of pocket. Value of the vouchers wouldn't grow in step with private insurance premiums, so eventually seniors wouldn't have the full safety net the previous Medicare program provided. Eligibility for the program would be increased from age 65 to 67, which could affect people's ability to retire. Ryan's overhaul would also repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides additional benefits to seniors and access to healthcare for the uninsured. Is the Ryan Medicare overhaul proposal a good idea? Here's the Debate Club's take:
Ethan Rome Executive Director of Health Care for America Now
Nina Owcharenko Director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies
James Capretta Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center
Joseph Antos Wilson H. Taylor Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute