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Paul Ryan

If you are at all like me, then you probably check on a regular basis. Recently, Politifact announced their “Lie of the Year”: Republicans voted to end Medicare. Sadly, the site’s “Lie of the Year” was not a lie at all. I was quite perturbed by this. I was not alone. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote a brief op-ed on this subject. And it has been all over the Daily Kos. The pundits on msnbc have been all over this story, too. David Weigel, over at Slate, gave Politifact quite the thrashing. To add my voice to the choir, I e-mailed the Politifact staff. You can do the same here:

Below is my e-mail:

To the Politifact Staff,

Generally speaking, I have held your site in high regard. While I haven’t always agreed with your findings, I could always find that the reasons and research those findings were predicated on were solid. 
Not so this time.
I know you’ve gotten an e-mail full of complaints from people like me, so I’ll try to be brief. My e-mail is just one of thousands crowding your inbox, I’m sure. But here’s the problem with your self-defense: I’m not in the echo-chamber. True, I do check the liberal blogs, and I do watch msnbc. However, I also watch Fox News on a daily basis. And though it makes my brain hurt, I try to listen to Rush and Beck almost daily. I also read a multitude of newspapers. I consume more news from a variety of sources than anyone I know. So, to toss me in with the rest of the liberals caught in an “echo-chamber” really pisses me off, pardon my French. The facts are the facts, I’m afraid, and you’ve simply gotten them wrong. Big time.
I will agree that Democrats may have been a bit too eager to demagogue and jump on the Ryan plan in order to win the special election in New York and to improve their odds in the House for this upcoming election. The video that shows “grandma” being wheeled off a cliff is a perfect example of the hysteria that you correctly identified.
However, you have equated that hysteria to a lie– the lie of the year, in fact. The demagoguery was over the line, to be sure, but it was rooted in the fact that Paul Ryan’s plan did end Medicare as we know it.
Let’s start by asking ourselves, “What is Medicare?” Well, Medicare is single-payer government health insurance, which is guaranteed to any American over the age of 65. For those who have paid into it all of their working life, most services under Part A are free. For Part B, there is a nominal monthly premium. Medicare pays doctors and hospitals directly on a fee-for-service basis. There are gaps, unfortunately, in Medicare, which means that sometimes seniors have to pay out of pocket. Medicare, like Social Security, has been a life-saver for poor seniors, who might otherwise have died prematurely as a consequence of inadequate access to health care services.
So, what then did Paul Ryan’s plan do to Medicare? In short: it ended Medicare as we know it.
Even in your own analysis of the Ryan plan you essentially make the case that Medicare as we know it will cease to exist, instead becoming a privatized venture. Paul Ryan’s plan removes the federal government from playing a role in providing health insurance and replaces it with private health insurers. Seniors would receive a voucher, hardly generous, with which they could go into the insurance market and purchase health care. And because under the Ryan plan the vouchers do not keep up with inflation, seniors end up paying more for their health care than under the current plan. By 2022, a fact you know well and have reported, Seniors would have paid $12,500 more per year for health care services. Whether you want to admit it or not, this might make it so that some seniors are left uninsured. What is neglected by you and by Ryan is the fact that the administrative costs of private insurers would actually contribute to higher health care costs, which means seniors will end up paying more money out of pocket. Obviously, Ryan is willing to sacrifice the poor in order to shrink government and slash the budget. Ryan’s plan effectively robs Peter in order to pay Paul. In other words, in order to save the federal government some money, Ryan’s plan would take money out of Medicare and shift health care costs onto seniors.  Seniors would shoulder the burden of finding a private insurer, paying more money out of pocket because the vouchers would not be sufficient to meet their health care costs, and they would be beholden to the whims of the private health insurance market. This is not Medicare, not matter how you try to rationalize it, folks.
What Paul Ryan does is destroy Medicare in order to protect it. It does not make sense– it is indefensible. Sure, you can call the Ryan plan “Medicare”, which is basically the heart of your claim that Democrats have made the lie of the year, but the plan really is not Medicare. You can call it a ham sandwich if you like, but it is not Medicare as we know it. So, you can take some measure of comfort in adhering to some bizarre parsing of semantics, but for senior citizens in this country and for people who look to the federal government to protect those who are the most vulnerable the Ryan plan is not Medicare. It creates a Medicare zombie: sure, that might be the corpse of your loved one walking about, looking for brains, but it is no longer that same warm, caring, protective person that you knew. I know it is a crude metaphor, but it holds true.
I know you won’t change your minds, especially now, but you should be aware that you are wrong and that there are people fact checking you and holding your feet to the fire.
Thank you,
Jose Rodriguez
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