Remember when Republicans were saying that Washington was going to pull the plug on grandma? Little did we know, they were on to something.
The newly released Republican budget does indeed threaten grandma -- by dismantling Medicare and ending the guaranteed health care that so many seniors' lives depend on.
If House Republicans and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan get their way, they would privatize Medicare -- getting rid of the government guarantee that makes the program accessible for all elderly Americans. Under this "brave" and "courageous" Republican plan, seniors would get a voucher to purchase insurance on the private market. This may sound like a reasonable plan until you consider that privatizing Medicare would cost seniors significantly more, almost doubling their out-of-pocket costs to more than $12,000 a year and leaving many unable to afford health care at all.
Ryan's plan to end Medicare -- and guaranteed health care for 48 million elderly and disabled Americans -- is not only dangerous for our seniors, it's dishonest too. Ryan uses disingenuous accounting tricks to give the appearance of deficit reduction, making Medicare the sacrificial lamb for a fiscally sound future. But this choice, and his accounting, are false.
There is certainly room to reform Medicare, and I agree with those who say the current system cannot adequately sustain a growing elderly population. I've long called for taking a closer look at Medicare -- and in fact, we know that through rooting out waste, fraud and abuse we can see hundreds of billions in annual savings. Republicans oppose this approach is that it doesn't actually end Medicare -- and make no mistake, that's the ultimate goal of Republicans.
When you strip down the Republicans' fuzzy math, you see that their plan includes more tax cuts for the wealthy -- and it pays for these big tax breaks on the backs of seniors, children, working families, and our nation's most vulnerable. That's not right.
Medicare, after all, is a trust. Millions of Americans played fair and paid into Medicare all their lives. Now, Republicans want to change the rules in the middle of the game. They may do it under the banner of "fairness" and "shared responsibility," but there's nothing fair or shared about taking from seniors to give to rich CEOs.
Here's a reality check for Republicans: only 4 percent of the American public actually agrees with their Medicare plan. But if it's not your average taxpayer, who actually stands to profit under his proposal? The answer is big health insurance companies. By shifting the nation's seniors to private insurance, Ryan and the Republicans can continue to line the pockets of insurance companies, providing them with a huge windfall of taxpayer dollars. So it's no surprise that the insurance industry is Ryan's largest campaign donor.
Our nation's fiscal future is a very serious issue. And it's long past due time that we have a serious conversation about how to cut spending and reduce the deficit in a long term, sustainable way. But pulling the plug on Medicare isn't the answer. We need a responsible approach to our fiscal problems, not a reckless plan that hurts our seniors and puts millions of elderly Americans at risk of not getting the health care they need. Grandma and grandpa deserve much better than that.
Follow Rep. Bruce Braley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BruceBraley