Republicans marched to their biggest landslide victory since before the Great Depression in 2010, buoyed by a terrible economy and the withering attack that Democrats had cut Medicare to fund Obamacare.
Democrats saw their 4-point advantage with voters over 65 in 2008 turned into a 6 percent disadvantage in 2010. In 2012 Democrats won 2 percent back but the GOP still retains a 3 percent advantage with the nation’s most reliable voters — though polling has shown that Republicans may be alienating this crucial voting bloc with extremism and a willingness to gut essential services.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who famously campaigned with his senior-citizen mother in 2012 as Mitt Romney’s running mate, has decided to see if he can erase what’s left of the GOP’s advantage with seniors by releasing another budget. As with each preceding budget, he has made his cuts to Medicare — which are all delayed for 10 years in an attempt to blunt the political damage — slightly less severe, hoping to dull the reputation as the guy who wants to maim Medicare, a position that won him jeers while speaking to AARP.
But Ryan’s budget is even more brutal this time to older Americans, especially the nation’s poorest seniors, while still promising $200,000 annually in tax breaks to those who earn over a million dollars a year.
Here are five ways Ryan’s latest budget would cause real pain for seniors.
Higher Medicare Costs Now
Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit.
Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.
Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts.
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It Cuts Programs Seniors Depend On
In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on.
“Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.”
Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits. And the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) that helps with the home delivery and support of seniors in their homes would completely eliminated.
The Senior Corps, which gives older Americans a chance to give back, would be completely eliminated right as millions of vital Boomers hit retirement, according to the NCOA.
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Medicaid Would Be Gutted And Left To The States
Seniors know that Medicaid isn’t just a program that helps low-income Americans. It’s a vital lifeline for seniors as “the largest payer of nursing home and other long-term care, covering 49 percent of all such costs,” according to Families USA. More than 15 percent of seniors depend on the program. That share rises to 44.6 percent for seniors with disabilities.
Ryan’s budget would cut the program by $732 billion as it changes the funding into block grants for the states, which could then evade federal regulations that help ensure quality care.
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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Cuts For 2 Million Seniors
Ryan’s plan also calls for $500 billion in cuts to “other mandatory” programs, which could include cuts to SSI for up to 2 million seniors, according to the NCOA.
The seniors who receive SSI are America’s poorest retirees, often those without any savings or familial support. This is the kind of cut that could turn the hyperbolic attack that seniors would be forced to eat cat food into reality.
Ryan doesn’t make this cut explicit, possibly because the insanity of eliminating a few dollars a day for the neediest Americans while offering millionaires more than $500 a day in tax breaks is too cruel to admit.
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Ends Medicare As We Know It
Paul Ryan despises Obamacare. So why does he want to turn Medicare into Obamacare?
While eliminating the reforms that extend the life of traditional Medicare, Ryan would cut benefits for future retirees in four ways.
“The proposal would increase the Medicare eligibility age, raise the deductible amount for doctor visits, penalize or prohibit people from buying first-dollar private Medigap coverage, and increase monthly premiums for middle-class seniors with incomes over $46,000 per year,” the NCOA reports.
Ryan would turn the single-payer program that promises all of America’s seniors basic health care into a “premium support” model that’s much closer to Obamacare with a “public option” than today’s Medicare. And by raising the retirement age and eliminating Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies, Ryan would leave millions of future 65- and 66-year-olds without any health insurance at all.
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