Paul Ryan Wants to Increase the Medicare Eligibility Age to 67


Republicans announce a lot of health care plans. All of them are essentially the same, “a familiar hodgepodge of tax credits, health savings accounts, high-risk pools, block granting of Medicaid, tort reform, and interstate purchase of health plans.” Today, after months of cogitating, House Republicans have finally agreed on yet another health care plan. It’s not a hodgepodge, however, it’s a “backpack.” Beyond that, however, it should sound pretty familiar:

In place of President Barack Obama’s health law, House Republicans propose providing Americans with refundable tax credits…. catastrophic insurance…. health-savings accounts…. plans offered in other states…. fee-for-service insurance through a newly created Medicare insurance exchange [not a voucher! not a voucher! absolutely positively not a voucher! –ed.]…. pay taxes on the value of whatever health insurance employers provide.

Hmmm. There’s no mention of high-risk pools or tort reform or Medicaid block grants. What the hell is going on here? Who was responsible for—oh, wait. Maybe the Wall Street Journal just did a lousy job of describing the GOP plan. I can hardly blame them for not taking it too seriously. Let’s check in with the Washington Post:

The GOP plan floats a variety of proposals…. refundable tax credit…. health savings accounts…. “high-risk pools”…. Medicaid funds would be handed to the states either as block grants or as per-capita allotments.

Now we’re talking. Every single buzzword is there except for tort reform. But maybe I should check in with Reuters:

The Republican proposal would gradually increase the Medicare eligibility age, which currently is 65, to match that of the Social Security pension plan, which is 67 for people born in 1960 or later….The Republican plan includes medical liability reform that would put a cap on non-economic damages awarded in lawsuits, a measure aimed at cutting overall healthcare costs.

Tort reform is there after all! And as an extra added bonus, the Medicare eligibility age goes up to 67. Hallelujah!

How could this possibly have taken more than five minutes to write? It’s identical to every health care plan ever proposed by Republicans. There is, of course, no funding mechanism, possibly because Republicans know perfectly well that it will do nothing and therefore require no funding. But here’s my favorite bit of well-hidden snark from the Washington Post account:

The most significant omission from the Republican health-care plan, though, is to what degree it will maintain — or, more likely, reduce — insurance coverage for Americans….Asked about the plan’s effect on coverage, a Republican leadership aide said Monday, “You’re getting to the dynamic effect of the plan and we can’t answer that until the committees start to legislate.”

But there is a significant clue in the GOP plan that it anticipates a surge in the ranks of the uninsured. Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government’s primary mechanism for compensating health providers for delivering care to the uninsured was through “disproportionate share hospital” payments, or DSH, which are allocated to facilities that treated large numbers of the uninsured. Under Obamacare, DSH payments were set to be phased out because coverage rates were expected to increase dramatically…. The Republican plan would repeal those cuts entirely.

Bottom line: this is just the usual conservative mush. It would accomplish nothing. It would insure no one. It would wipe out all the gains of Obamacare. Millions of people would have their current health care ripped away from them, all so that Republicans can repeal the 3.8 percent tax on high-earner investment income that funds Obamacare.

And just for good measure, it will also raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Because apparently, the old hodgepodge just wasn’t quite Scrooge-like enough.