THE BLOG

The Republican Budget Hypocrisy

04/07/2011 05:38 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

The Republican Road to Ruin the Budget plan radically restructures Medicare, ending the program as we know it. We all know the details. Seniors will be given vouchers to put towards the purchase of a health insurance plan on the private market. The facts are clear: the amount the government puts towards seniors' health plans will not keep pace with the rising cost of health care, leaving seniors footing the bill.

Chairman Ryan is trying to sell this plan by saying that it gives seniors the same kind of health coverage as Members of Congress. The Budget Committee's report, Path to Prosperity, says the budget plan "offers future beneficiaries the same kind of health-care options now enjoyed by members of Congress." This is, by far, one of the more outrageous claims in the Republican budget plan.

If this plan extended the same kind of health care options that Members of Congress have access to, seniors would be responsible for only 28 percent of their health care premiums. Yet, CBO projects that seniors will have to pay for 68 percent of their premiums within ten years of enactment of the Ryan Voucher Plan. Today, by comparison, the average senior on Medicare pays about 25 percent of their total health care costs. The Republican budget plan's burden of 68 percent of health care costs on seniors is a far cry from the 28 percent of costs that Members of Congress pay.

Health care vouchers for seniors will be calculated in advance, and not based on the actual cost of premium increases -- meaning that every year as premiums go up, seniors will be stuck paying a greater portion of the bill. This is not the case for Members of Congress. When the plan takes effect in 2022, the average senior would receive $8,000 to buy insurance. Plans for Members of Congress cost $9,012 in 2010. What kind of health care plan will $8,000 buy in 2022 for our sickest and oldest seniors, when $9,000 can't buy a plan for a Member of Congress today?

We promised our nation's seniors a stable Medicare program that would pay for their health care in retirement. The Republican budget plan shifts that responsibility from the government to individual seniors. The fundamental question here is, "When the time comes to pay the bill, who's the one left holding the check?" The Republican answer is seniors. My answer is Medicare. If it's not good enough for Members of Congress, it should not be forced on our nation's seniors.

You can find more information about my testimony to protect Medicare here, and see the video of the hearing here.