In 2010, Republicans reaped political dividends from Obama’s unpopular healthcare plan because it cut $500 billion in projected Medicare spending over a decade.
Now Democrats are ready to repay the favor and talk about Republican Medicare cuts. They point out that independent analysts have concluded that future beneficiaries would end up paying more under Ryan’s plan than under the program as currently structured.
A U.S. Senate study, overseen by Democrats, reported last year that per-person out-of-pocket expenses would more than double in all states in 2022 under a Ryan-like proposal. Florida’s increase would be the highest, $7,383.
But if Medicare recipients aren’t required to pay more for their services, taxpayers in general will. About 10,000 Americans are projected to retire daily over the next two decades. Healthcare inflation could rise as much as much as 7.5 percent next year, while general inflation could be at just 2 percent.
Obama sought to manage Medicare growth by increasing some taxes and reducing future expenditures, largely through an independent panel.
Ryan’s plan seeks to cap those future expenditures by way of the premium support or “voucher,” which would limit per-person expenditure increases to GDP plus .5 percent. Under one Ryan plan proposal, the premium would subsidize the sick and the poor more than the wealthy and the well.
While no Florida-specific polls on the Ryan plan are available, a poll last summer by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. said that more than 50 percent of voters nationwide opposed Ryan’s proposal. Opposition was highest among senior citizens, even though the plan would affect only those 55 and younger.
Many Republicans get queasy talking about Medicare changes in a general election.
Before dropping out as a U.S. Senate candidate last year, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos balked when asked about the Ryan plan. His campaign pointed out that 55 percent of Florida GOP primary voters were older than 60. And the plan wasn’t popular with them.
The likely Republican nominee to challenge Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November, Connie Mack, had called the Ryan plan “a joke,” but his campaign later said he was referring to the process of votes in Washington.
Mack, like Romney, will have a lot more talking and explaining to do in the coming months.
Ryan indicated he’s ready to have that debate. But he needs Republicans, and voters at large, with him and Romney.
“We can turn this thing around. Real solutions can be delivered. But, it will take leadership,” he said. “And the courage to tell you the truth.”