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Vouchers: Good for Health Insurers – Bad for Insurees

April 14, 2011

The Ryan plan, he said, would “end the current health care guarantees for seniors on Medicare, and deny health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans. That’s not courageous, it’s wrong.”

– Budget Committee, ranking member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

The Republican party is very busy these days lobbying for the largest and wealthiest corporations rather than doing their job which is to represent the public interest. The Health Insurance industry is a favorite one. The proposal by Paul Ryan (R) from Wisconsin to offer vouchers for Medicaid and Medicare and otherwise privatize these programs It would eliminate both programs as we know them today.

I am very familiar with both programs as my mom uses both. And just for the record: we were middle class folks who worked and saved and paid our taxes. She simply outlived her savings and my small business went under all at the same time. She was placed in a nursing home in late 2009 due to congestive heart failure and diabetes. Without Medicare and in particular, Medicaid, she would be living with me, with no skilled nursing care because neither of us could afford her daily medical care.

Today I will explain what vouchers are and how that would work. But first let me say this. If the largest corporations would get off their hoarding of nearly $3 trillion and invest in America and American jobs, tax revenues would increase dramatically very quickly and the two programs would be well on their way to being solvent. Our whole system is set up on taxes to fund government and related programs. Our government is owned by its citizens; whereas, corporations sell things and make a profit, and customers have little or no input as to how these businesses operate. Health Insurance sells insurance and coverage always has limitations. Insurees are not patients or citizens, they are customers first and foremost.

That is a very important distinction and should be remembered anytime we are considering privatizing public programs or services.

What Are Vouchers
According to Merrill Goozner, “the House Budget Committee chairman’s alternative budget would turn Medicare over to private insurers for anyone who retired after 2021. Future retirees would receive a capped payment to buy insurance (he called it “premium support,” not a voucher). Medicaid would be turned into a capped block grant – which translates as a fixed sum awarded to states.”

Economist Paul Reich wrote, “Paul Ryan’s plan – to give seniors vouchers they can cash in with private for-profit insurers — would be even worse. It would funnel money into the hands of for-profit insurers, whose administrative costs are far higher than Medicare.”

What this means is a voucher is more like a coupon worth a stated amount of money. You use it PLUS YOUR OWN MONEY to buy healthcare. Nothing is guaranteed. You will be subject to the rules of health insurance corporations decided by a very small group of people. They are not your government representatives. EVEN if you were a stockholder in one of those companies, you would not have a say so over how the programs would run.

As I wrote recently here, the aging of the Baby Boomers is a goldmine that private corporations want to cash in on. They see 70 MILLION NEW CUSTOMERS — NOT PATIENTS WHO NEED COMPASSIONATE CARE AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT, OR CITIZENS WHO HAVE RIGHTS AND INPUT.

If you want to protect Medicare and Medicaid, get involved, Contact your representatives on both sides of the aisle and let your views be known.

Princeton University health economist Uwe Reinhardt, who sits on the boards of device-maker Boston Scientific and Amerigroup, a managed care provider, argued in his February critique of the Ryan-Rivlin plan that the most likely outcome of turning Medicare into a defined contribution plan from its current defined benefits would be an ever-widening gap between the level of government support and what constitutes good health care in our society. That would lead to “a multi-tiered health system with a highly financially constrained, bare-bones system for tax-financed health insurance, a broad but varied set of tiers for privately insured patients and a boutique tier for Americans able to afford that style of care.”

Source: Medicare, Medicaid Gets Squeezed in Ryan Program, click here

Also read: Medicare for All Is the Solution by Robert Reich, click here

Excerpt: The real problem is the soaring costs of health care that lie beneath Medicare. They’re costs all of us are bearing in the form of soaring premiums, co-payments, and deductibles.

Americans spend more on health care per person than any other advanced nation and get less for our money. Yearly public and private healthcare spending is $7,538 per person. That’s almost two and a half times the average of other advanced nations.

Yet the typical American lives 77.9 years – less than the average 79.4 years in other advanced nations. And we have the highest rate of infant mortality of all advanced nations.


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