House Speaker Paul Ryan perpetuated dangerous falsehoods about Medicare on CBS “60 Minutes” Sunday night. In an interview with correspondent Scott Pelley, Ryan hauled out the myth that “Medicare goes bankrupt in about 10 years.” He continued, “The trust fund runs out of money. So we have to make sure that we shore this program up.” Really?
To Ryan, “shoring up” Medicare means privatizing it, creating what we at the National Committee call “coupon care.” Seniors would have to fend for themselves in the private insurance market with government-provided vouchers that wouldn’t fully cover their premiums or out-of-pocket costs. Traditional Medicare would be left to wither and die.
Ryan’s plan is based on a fake crisis. Contrary to the Speaker’s claims on “60 Minutes,” Medicare does not go bankrupt in 10 years. It’s true that – without increasing payroll taxes – the Medicare Hospital Trust fund (which finances Medicare Part A) will become depleted in 2028. However, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out, “incoming payroll taxes and other revenue will still cover 87% of Medicare hospital insurance costs.” That’s a far cry from bankruptcy, Mr. Ryan.
Any shortfalls, CBPP notes, could be covered by “raising revenues, slowing the growth in costs, or most likely both,” without wrecking traditional Medicare – options that Ryan doesn’t seem inclined to consider.
The other fiction that Ryan perpetrates in his “60 Minutes” appearance is that his Medicare “reforms” wouldn’t “change the benefit” for anybody who is in or near retirement – only Gen X’ers (like Ryan himself) and subsequent generations. This is simply untrue. Our own analysis at NCPSSM indicates that privatizing Medicare could adversely impact anyone 55 and older (including people currently enrolled in traditional Medicare) because of potentially higher premiums, benefit cuts, and higher out-of-pockets. Neither seniors nor their children and grandchildren should believe Ryan’s false assurances. There is simply too much at stake.