Don’t Let Politicians Scare You About Medicare


I know that it is hard not to listen to presidential politicians, news outlets and other political extremists.  Like cock-roaches, they are everywhere.

However, if you are a Baby Boomer, I urge you to try not to vote out of fear.  Our constitution was written to make certain that power did not rest in one person.

In order to do that we have to deal with presidential elections every four years.  Yes, it is time for two lying millionaires and their flunkies to square off in a national popularity contest.  Let the mudslinging begin.

A couple of weeks ago, we watched the youth of the world celebrate their similarities in the Olympics.  In the next couple of weeks, we are going to hear the “adults” of the nation emphasize our differences in their national political conventions.

Over the next few weeks you are going to hear some pretty scary predictions of what will happen if “the other guy” is elected.  Specifically targeted will be predictions about the Medicare program.  I urge you not to be scared by the rhetoric that you will hear until after you have investigated the truth of what you are being told.

RNC

This week the Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa, FL.  As I write this, Tropical Storm Isaac is still in the Caribbean Sea.   He is expected to be upgraded to hurricane status.  (Is it any wonder?  If you already have a Tropical Storm and add the hot wind that over 2000 political extremists produce, you are going to have a hurricane every time.)

The Republicans, among other things, are going to try to scare seniors by claiming that Obamacare cuts Medicare funding.  It does nothing of the sort.

Most of the new mandates are directed at wage earners.  Medicare is only a small part of the law.  The only change that was made to original Medicare was the addition of an annual wellness visit benefit.  The other changes that were made were directed at Medicare’s optional programs.

A great deal of noise was made by the Obama administration about the changes that were made to the optional Medicare D plan.  The “free” portion of Medicare does not pay for prescription drugs.  If a Medicare beneficiary wants insurance help with prescription drugs, he must participate in the optional Medicare D program.  If he does not wish to pay the monthly premium for prescription drug coverage because he takes no prescription drugs, he has that option.  The problem is that if he later needs prescription drugs and elects to join the Medicare D program, he must pay a penalty of 1% of the national average premium for each month that was eligible for Medicare D but elected not to participate.  That penalty will last for the rest of his life.

The other major change that was made to Medicare by Obamacare was to the Medicare Advantage program.  During the Republican National Convention, the speakers will be talking about the $716 Billion that Obamacare allegedly cuts from Medicare.  That is technically not true.

Obamacare makes no cuts to Medicare.  What it does is freeze federal payment to the private insurance companies that provide an option to Medicare.  The payment freeze may result in a loss of $716 to insurance companies.  Every projection that I have seen indicate that in the next few years the Medicare Advantage program that we know today will not be recognizable.

Currently, approximately 25% of people with Medicare have elected to use private insurance companies to administer their Medicare benefits through the Medicare Advantage program.  The freezes that are in Obamacare are anticipated to drive approximately 60% of those who currently use Medicare Advantage back to original Medicare.  According to what I have read, those who remain in the Medicare Advantage program will face higher premiums, fewer benefits or both.

(The other change to Medicare, that nobody is talking about, started its “Beta Test” last week.  It is a movement to change Medicare from the PPO system that is in existence today to a government-run, managed care program, similar to the Medicare Advantage program but administered by the government rather than private insurance companies.)

DNC

The Republicans do not have sole right to misleading statements and outright lies.  The following week over 2000 extremist Democrats will gather in Charlotte, NC.

Although there is no Tropical Storm headed in that direction, I predict there will still be a significant hot wind.  The blowhards that speak are almost guaranteed to try to create a national storm.

Among other things, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden seem determined to scare America’s seniors about the Medicare philosophy of the Republican candidate for Vice President.  They are claiming that Mr. Ryan would do away with Medicare.  That is also a lie.

Apparently, Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden and the rest of the liars in the Democratic National Convention are not able to read.  They would prefer to tell scary stories to seniors.

Paul Ryan’s proposal would not eliminate Medicare.  All it would do is provide a CHOICE for people who are age 55 or younger.  Those who are more comfortable with traditional, government administrated Medicare can still have original Medicare.  Those who prefer to use a private health insurance company to administer their health insurance may use their “voucher” to have access to a private health insurance like they have been used to.

Even if Mr. Ryan’s plan for Medicare were implemented today, not one person who is currently enrolled in Medicare or will be enrolled in Medicare in the next 10 years would be affected in any way.

The portion of Mr. Ryan’s plan that would affect seniors today is his idea of “block grants” to states for Medicaid.  It would likely lead to states making it more difficult for seniors to qualify for Long Term Care.  Unfortunately, that is an issue that you will probably not hear much about during the DNC.  Last December, Mr. Obama suspended all work on the one section of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act that attempted to deal with the funding of Long Term Care benefits.

CONCLUSION

People who have known me all my life know that I am normally a-political.  I tend to lean a bit right of center but that is my set of values.  As far as I am concerned, as long as at least one house of Congress or the White House is controlled by politicians in a separate political party from the others, only laws that are truly bi-partisan will be passed.

In 2009 and 2010 both houses of congress and the presidency were controlled by political extremists in the Democratic Party.  They were able to force through laws that met their own personal agenda and not necessarily the optimum regulations for the nation.

In 2011 and 2012, the houses of congress were split between Republicans and Democrats.  Very little was forced on Americans.  The few things that were, tended to be more centrist and less extreme.

One of the few compromises in the last half of the current administration happened a few months ago.  In order to be granted the ability to borrow more money to fund his leftist programs, President Obama agreed to a 2%, across the board, cut in federal spending in February.  That cut will happen in the early part of next year, regardless of the results of November’s election.  Medicare will have no choice but to reduce its spending by 2% unless congress is able to find a way to cut the funding of other programs that is acceptable to whoever is elected president.

Those people who are scared by the rhetoric that is about to come from the political conventions can relax, at least for the next two weeks.  What you are about to hear, from both parties, are half-truths and lies.

If you are concerned about Medicare, direct your attention away from presidential politics and toward your local Representative and Senator.  Unless they are able to find a suitable compromise in the next few months, Medicare, as we know it, is already scheduled to be cut by 2%.

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