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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is pissed.

First, The New York Times’ John Harwood asked the Tea Party hero about Jack Hunter, who recently resigned as Paul’s social media director after a right-wing website outed him as “The Southern Avenger” with a history of neo-confederate commentary. The senator quickly said that some of Hunter’s comments were “stupid” but rejected allegations that his former aide was a racist and made it clear that he resented even having to address the subject.

Now, Harwood wants Paul to explain how libertarianism, a philosophy claimed by about 10 percent of the American public, can be embraced by a majority of Americans, especially when it rejects Medicare and Social Security.

Rand Paul refuses the premise. He says that Harwood is “using a straw man” and notes that the most libertarian members of the Senate — Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and himself — want to save Medicare and Social Security. The senator then describes his plan to reform Medicare, which he says has more than $40 trillion in liabilities. (You can listen to the interview from NPR’s On Point here.)

What is Rand Paul’s plan to “save” Medicare?

Paul’s Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act of 2013 made little to no news when it was introduced last week as the licensed ophthalmologist was feuding with New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

When Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a plan to privatize Medicare in 2010, it created an uproar that the congressman tried to dull by only phasing it in for Americans 55 and younger. Paul’s plan would immediately privatize Medicare, shifting all retirees into the same plans offered to members of Congress.

“The Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) describes an array of insurance options available to 4 million federal employees and their dependents — roughly 10 million people. The government pays roughly three-quarters of the total costs of insurance plans chosen by beneficiaries based on their individual needs and preferences,” Paul wrote in an op-ed introducing his plan.

Paul’s plan would also raise the retirement age.

“In order to make this fiscally possible, the initial eligibility age for seniors will be increased gradually from 65 to 70 over a period of 20 years, and the benefits will be means-tested,” Paul wrote, meaning anyone 44 or younger would have to wait until they are 70 to receive Paul’s Medicare. “However, no current or near-term enrollees will have their eligibility delayed.”

How much more would seniors be paying under Paul’s plan? Ryan’s first privatization plan — which did not include a traditional Medicare plan or subsidies that increased as health care costs did — would double out-of-pocket Medicare costs for seniors. (Ironically, Paul’s plan, like Ryan’s, ends up resembling Obamacare.)

The CBO has not scored Paul’s bill yet so it’s unclear how much the costs for seniors would go up. But Paul’s point is made.

He believes in Medicare — just probably not the Medicare you expected.

Photo: Mark Taylor via Flickr.com

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