U.S. residents nearing retirement age are uncertain about future health care costs because Republicans' Medicare reform proposals keep changing and some provide few details, the New York Times' "Well" reports.
GOP Medicare Plans
There have been several versions of a Republican-supported plan to transform Medicare into a premium-support program, and each proposal is expected in some way to shift costs from the federal government to beneficiaries, according to "Well."
Under the Republican Medicare plan included in the House-approved budget proposal -- written by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate, House Budget and Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- beneficiaries would receive a government subsidy to purchase medical coverage from private insurers or traditional Medicare. The subsidy would be valued to the cost of the second-least costly insurance plan in the local market and the amount would vary based on the beneficiary's income.
Critics say the plan would result in minimal government contributions for beneficiaries, nearly half of whom have annual incomes of less than $22,000 and already spend 16% to 22% of their income on health care. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that an earlier version of that plan would have more than doubled beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs, to $12,500 in 2022.
Meanwhile, a different version drafted in 2011 by Ryan would have made private coverage the only option for beneficiaries. CBO estimated that plan would cost beneficiaries about $20,512 per year on average in 2022, more than traditional Medicare.
Voters also are concerned that some proposals to transform Medicare into a premium-support program would raise Medicare's eligibility age to 67.
Although none of the various proposals would affect benefits for individuals age 55 and older, those younger than age 55 -- who have been contributing to Medicare throughout their working lives -- are becoming concerned that they will not have enough time to begin saving for medical emergencies (Rabin, "Well," New York Times, 9/17).
Romney Calls Some U.S. Residents 'Victims' Who Feel 'Entitled to Health Care'
Meanwhile, Romney on Monday drew significant criticism after a video emerged in which he said earlier this year that nearly half of all U.S. residents are "victims" who feel "entitled to health care" and other government programs, and that those individuals likely will support President Obama in the upcoming election, the New York Times' "The Caucus" reports (Shear/Barbaro, "The Caucus," New York Times, 9/18).
At a brief news conference following the video leak, Romney said his comments were not "elegantly stated," adding that they demonstrated the contrast between Obama's "government-centered society" and the "free-market approach" to government he supports (Thomas, AP/Miami Herald, 9/17).
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign was quick to criticize Romney for the comments. Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina said Romney's statements were "shocking," adding, "It's hard to serve as president for all Americans when you've disdainfully written off half the nation" (Boyer, Washington Times, 9/17).