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Ryan Budget a "Disaster" for NH Seniors?

April 15, 2011

CONCORD, N. H. – A vote on the Republican budget plan could happen as early as today (Friday) in Washington D.C., and opponents of the proposal say the changes it outlines for Medicare and Medicaid could be devastating for New Hampshire seniors and people with disabilities.

Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow with the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities, says today's out-of-pocket cost for the average 65-year-old on Medicare is about $6,000 per year. Under the plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), that expense for seniors would double, says Van de Water.

"By shifting from traditional Medicare to private plans, it would substantially increase the cost of health care spending overall, and that's because traditional Medicare has much lower administrative costs than private insurance plans."

He says another reason the costs would go up is that Medicare can negotiate better rates from doctors and hospitals than private insurance companies. The Ryan plan would institute vouchers for seniors and reduce the federal government's share of contributions to Medicare.

Currently, federal money covers about 55 percent of states' Medicaid costs. Under the Ryan plan, that would be replaced with a block grant, which Van de Water warns would leave the program with a shortfall.

"And the result is to cause states to have to restrict eligibility, cut off people who need support or reduce the benefits that are covered."

Stephen Gorin, executive director for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) New Hampshire chapter, also believes the Ryan proposal would undermine Medicare.

"And shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries, many of whom can't afford them; and secondly, it will really adversely impact Medicaid, which many older adults – particularly those in nursing homes – rely on."

Gorin and others point to the long-term success of Medicare and Medicaid, while Republicans say the dramatic changes are needed to reduce the federal deficit.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH