EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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August 25, 2012

Column: Ryan’s Medicare plan mirrors that enjoyed by Congress


Ten years hence, Wyden/Ryan would let Medicare recipients request “premium support” payments. As Wyden and Ryan argue, “that would empower seniors to choose either a traditional Medicare plan or a Medicare-approved private plan.”

“Premium support” is a Dullsville name for a dazzling idea. It should be rechristened Insurance Assistance (unexciting, but fathomable), Kemp Grants (echoing collegiate Pell Grants, but honoring Ryan’s late mentor, former New York GOP Congressman Jack Kemp), Personal Health Grants (as columnist Quin Hillyer suggests), or MediChoice (as the TrueSpeak Institute’s Jim Guirard advises.)

These payments would offer “more help for those who need it” and “less help for those who don’t,” Wyden and Ryan continue. “Wealthier seniors who need help least would see their assistance reduced.” Democrats who hate rich people should love how Wyden/Ryan pinpoints benefits on poorer Americans.

Seniors would use these optional payments to purchase medical plans that make them happy. Thus, Wyden/Ryan mirrors the way federal legislators buy health insurance.

As FactCheck.org’s Brooks Jackson notes, “House and Senate members are allowed to purchase private health insurance offered through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers more than 8 million other federal employees, retirees and their families.”

“The FEHBP offers about 300 different private health care plans,” Jackson writes, “including five government-wide, fee-for-service plans and many regional health maintenance organization (HMO) plans ...” While this huge number includes all policies, nationwide, “an enrollee’s choice is between 5 and 15 options,” the Congressional Research Service reports.

As FactCheck.org further details, “All plans cover hospital, surgical and physician services, and mental health services, prescription drugs and ‘catastrophic’ coverage against very large medical expenses ... There are no exclusions for preexisting conditions.” Participants may change plans during annual open-season periods. Also, the government pays 72 percent of the average worker’s premium, and a maximum of 75 percent.

Democrats cannot explain why Medicare recipients need to become congressmen to enjoy such choices in health coverage.

If RyanCare, in essence, is good enough for senior citizens like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, it’s good enough for any senior who wants it after 2022.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

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