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June 2, 2011 / J. Shaw

AP:FACT CHECK: Democrats distort GOP Medicare plan

Democrats are distorting the fundamentals of a Republican plan to reshape
Medicare, falsely accusing the GOP of pushing a proposal that tells the elderly
“you’re on your own” with health care and that lets insurers deny coverage to
the sick.

Medicare always pushes hot buttons with voters. Both parties know this and
spare no effort to exploit the issue, with truth as the frequent casualty.
That’s the case now as Democrats go after a far-reaching plan introduced by Rep.
Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and largely embraced by congressional Republicans.

The new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie
Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., led the charge this week in an appearance on CBS’
“Face the Nation.” The DNC and its Republican counterpart are the primary
money-raisers in politics and often temples of exaggeration as they convert
controversy into cash for the campaigns.

A look at Wasserman Schultz’s statements and how they compare with the


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: “They would take the people who are younger than 55 years
old today and tell them: ‘You know what, you’re on your own. Go and find private
health insurance in the health care insurance market; we’re going to throw you
to the wolves and allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you
for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to give you X amount of dollars, and
you figure it out.'”

THE FACTS: First, the Ryan plan explicitly forbids insurance companies from
denying coverage to anyone who qualifies for Medicare, including those who have
pre-existing illnesses. Second, it does not merely send money to the elderly and
leave them to their own devices in arranging for medical care.

The plan calls for Medicare to stay the same for people 55 and older. But
starting in 2022, new beneficiaries would get their health insurance from
competing private insurers instead of from the government. The government would
offer subsidies to pay for the coverage and set standards that insurers must
follow. One condition, says the plan, is that participating insurers “agree to
offer insurance to all Medicare beneficiaries, to avoid cherry-picking and
ensure that Medicare’s sickest and highest-cost beneficiaries receive

Nor would the government merely send “X amount of dollars” to the elderly and
let them figure out whether they can afford coverage. The subsidies would go to
the plan selected by the beneficiary. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget
Office, in analyzing the plan, said it would not let insurers charge more to
sick people. Premiums would be the same for everyone of the same age.

The Ryan plan raises plenty of questions about costs to the elderly over time
and the adequacy of care. The Congressional Budget Office said future retirees
would pay more under Ryan’s plan than if they went into traditional Medicare. By
2030, a typical 65-year-old would be paying two-thirds of his or her health

But Wasserman Schultz and some other Democrats who accuse the GOP of wanting
to “end Medicare” have skipped past the complicated crux of that debate, instead
attacking provisions that do not exist.     By Calvin Woodward


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