What Would Scontras Cut? Medicare

October 20, 2010 12:01 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Maine GOP House candidate Dean Scontras says he wants to reduce deficits while cutting corporate taxes. It seems Maine voters are understandably skeptical that both can be done simultaneously — and worried about what Scontras would cut as a result. Yesterday, Scontras wrote on his campaign blog: "Many people have been saying to me, 'I agree that we need to reduce spending, but where would you end up cutting?' This is a natural, and very understandable concern."

Of course it's a natural and understandable concern. Scontras has made reducing government debt and deficits his primary campaign focus, while offering little more than a hint of how he'd do it. And even yesterday, a mere two weeks from Election Day, Scontras didn't have his own package of cuts to point to, instead signing on to the Cato Institute's "Downsizing the Federal Government" proposals:

As a good starting point for discussion, the CATO Institute has given us a resource called "Downsizing the Federal Government".  In it, CATO has given policy makers some tools to help identify areas of the federal government to cut.

[...]

I highly recommend reading the essays on the site.  They are an excellent starting point for serious discussion of this subject.

Note that Scontras points to Cato's "resource" as his answer to the question of what he would "end up cutting," and that he doesn't offer so much as a word of disagreement with any of Cato's proposals. So let's take a look at what Cato and Dean Scontras want to cut. Since Scontras is running to represent a district with more seniors than the national average, we'll start with Medicare. Here's Cato:

Medicare should be converted to a system based on individual vouchers and competitive coverage options. ... Individuals age 65 and over would purchase private health insurance with the aid of a federal voucher. Individuals with lower incomes would purchase private health insurance with the aid of the federal tax credit and a voucher. The reforms would essentially convert Medicare and Medicaid from defined benefit to defined contribution plans.

Well, that's pretty straightforward: The Cato proposal Dean Scontras endorses would end Medicare as we know it, forcing seniors to find private health insurance.

And what if their "federal voucher" isn't enough to cover the cost of that private insurance? There's a clear answer to that, too: "If individuals purchased an insurance plan costing more than the federal payment, they would chip in the extra." But don't worry: the voucher would be equal to "the current average Medicare spending per beneficiary" — so as long as you're healthier than average, you won't have to "chip in the extra."

While Maine residents are saving up so they can "chip in the extra" for health care during their retirement years under the Scontras/Cato plan, they should remember to set aside a few dollars for heating oil, too. 

See, the Scontras/Cato plan would terminate — not cut, eliminate — "Low income energy assistance." That's a program that "assist[s] low income households, particularly those with the lowest incomes that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs."

In other words, it helps people in places where it gets cold in the winter keep their homes warm so they don't freeze. Maine's share of LIHEAP funds in the 2010 fiscal year? $56.9 million. That's a lot of Maine residents left in the cold.

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