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Seniors to Bear Brunt of GOP Budget Plan?

April 25, 2011

BOSTON - When Congress returns from its spring break, proposals will be debated regarding proposed cuts and changes to Medicare and Medicaid. Those in favor of the Republican plan say the changes are necessary to reduce the deficit, while opponents say the changes will do little to curb rising health care costs and it will be seniors who pay the price.

Paul Van de Water, senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says the out-of-pocket cost for the average 65-year-old on Medicare is about $6000 per year, and under the plan proposed by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the expense for seniors would double.

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

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

Regarding Medicaid, the federal government's share is about 55 percent of what the states pay, and under the Ryan plan, that would be replaced with a block grant, which Van de Water says would leave the program with a shortfall.

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

Last week, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Edward Markey joined seniors and health care advocates in Brighton to condemn the Republican proposals, calling the proposed changes a "disaster for seniors, working families, and people with disabilities."

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA