Editor's note: AARP Bulletin invited Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, R-Ohio, to write about his view of Medicare for the July/August 2011 issue. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's view of Medicare will appear in September.
During an election in upstate New York in May, a television advertisement showed a man in a business suit literally throwing an older American in a wheelchair off a cliff. That ad and others like it are part of a campaign to deceive American seniors about Medicare, to scare you, and — ultimately — to guarantee that your children and grandchildren do not have the chance you did to live the American dream.
See also: Saving Medicare.
Those are the stakes. Here are the facts. If you're on Medicare now, or about to retire, you're fine. Nothing is going to happen to your benefits.
But, with tens of millions of boomers poised to retire, Medicare's finances won't be fine for long. According to the most recent Medicare trustees' report, Medicare will be bankrupt by 2024 — five years earlier than they projected just a year ago.
What happens when the program goes bankrupt? Immediate cuts. USA Today reported on May 13, "If the trust funds run out, the programs no longer would be able to pay full benefits. … Medicare could pay 90% starting in 2024, dropping to 75% in 2045."
Medicare will cover fewer procedures and fewer visits to the doctor. It will become increasingly difficult to even find a doctor who accepts Medicare. That is the future for your children and grandchildren if nothing is done.
In the health care law that passed last year, the Democrats who run Washington revealed their solution: a panel of 15 unelected bureaucrats whose job is to deny care to save money. That means decisions about your health that should be made by you and your doctor will instead be made by anonymous accountants in an office in Washington. Organizations like AARP that profit from the status quo in Medicare have a responsibility to tell the truth about this to their members.
There is a better way. Our plan, the House-passed "Path to Prosperity" budget, would keep the current Medicare system in place for anyone over age 54. That bears repeating: Our budget includes no Medicare changes for anyone currently age 55 and up — ever.
For younger folks, we transition to a system called "premium support." It will operate much like the current Medicare prescription drug benefit. It is still Medicare, and the government will still pay for health care, but future beneficiaries will have the ability to choose the health care plan that is right for them. Each plan will be required to meet the same standard value of benefits that members of Congress and other federal employees receive, and beneficiaries will still deal directly with Medicare.
For those with a lower income, the premium support provided by the government is higher under our plan. The same goes for patients who are ill. As for the very wealthy, well, they will pay a higher share of the premium.
So that is the choice we face. The status quo means bankruptcy and steep benefit cuts. Washington Democrats' alternative is government rationing. Our plan would protect current seniors and those 55 and older, while reforming the system so it will be there for future generations. Your children and grandchildren are counting on you to make the right choice for them.
Also of interest: A boomer's guide to Medicare. >>