The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation said Monday that a year-long study has found that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to turn Medicare into a privatized “premium support” coupon program will result in higher costs for six out of every 10 beneficiaries just to maintain their current levels of service.
Kaiser’s study (PDF) found that his plan to partially privatize Medicare would result in wild variations in policy costs across the country, with some states set to be hit much worse than others, confirming in greater detail earlier studies that found Ryan’s plan would result in significantly higher costs for most seniors.
In particular, Kaiser notes that the crucial swing state of Florida — where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney currently enjoys a slight lead in the polls over President Barack Obama — would see the worst fallout, with about 77 percent of Medicare beneficiaries expected to pay $200 or more per month under the Republican’s coupon program.
It would be especially expensive in areas with the highest concentration of Medicare enrollees, like Miami-Dade County, where nearly all seniors face paying nearly $500 more per month, or Palm Beach County, where 99 percent of plans would go up by more than $370 a month. Kaiser added that Los Angeles County and Orange County in California also face some of the worst price hikes under the Ryan coupon plan, where 99 percent of seniors face paying an additional $$216-$260 more per month.
Overall, seniors would face increased costs of about $720 per year on average across the country under Ryan’s proposed plan, Kaiser added.
“That means that under Romney’s plan, millions of people—especially those with complicated health needs who see a lot of different doctors—would have to give up their doctors or pay extra to maintain access to their choices,” a prepared statement from the Obama campaign claimed. “Even worse, this study is just examining the impact of their plan in a single year. It ignores the role of adverse selection against traditional Medicare—which would drive costs higher and force more people to give up their choice of doctor. It also doesn’t factor in the impact of the cap Romney would place on the growth rate of the vouchers, which results in seniors paying thousands of dollars more every year regardless of which plan they choose.”
Both Romney and Ryan have campaigned on the claim that 7.4 million seniors will lose their access to Medicare due to cuts in Obama’s health reforms, but many fact checkers have refuted that representation of the law. The Affordable Care Act does not cut Medicare benefits, but instead aims to find billions in savings in the Medicare Advantage program, which officials say is unnecessarily costly. The 7.4 million figure cited by both conservative candidates is actually the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how many more people would be covered under traditional Medicare plans that cost beneficiaries less. Additionally, Ryan’s budget includes the same provision, and most Republicans in Congress have voted for it twice.
Reacting to Kaiser’s study, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul told Talking Points Memo that Kaiser’s study does not reflect “the Romney-Ryan plan,” which is supposedly different from the Ryan plan, although neither candidate has specified where they differ on substance. “Our plan would always provide future beneficiaries guaranteed coverage options with no increase in out-of-pocket costs from today’s Medicare,” Saul insisted, offering no further details.
Romney said in August that he would implement a program that’s “the same if not identical” to what Ryan proposed.