GOP Claim That Rep. Ryan's Budget Proposal Doesn't Affect Current Seniors Is False

April 15, 2011 12:06 pm ET — Meredith Kormes

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has made a splash with his new budget proposal that claims to "save Medicare for current and future generations while making no changes for those in and near retirement." Ryan must consider this a huge selling point because he has repeated this claim over and over again, even though it's not true. On Thursday, while appearing at an Economic Policies for the 21st Century event, Ryan said, "Millions of seniors have organized their retirements around Medicare and Social Security, Medicaid. People within ten years of retiring are getting ready to enjoy these programs. We preserve this, we protect it."

Ryan's fellow Republicans have picked this line up as their latest talking point. Speaking on the House floor, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) embraced it with gusto:

REP. WOODALL: So it pains me to come to the floor today and hear what can only be described as nonsense. Nonsense. Have you heard anybody on the House floor today say that the Republican budget would change things for seniors? Have you heard that today? I believe you have because I have heard it over and over again.

And the truth of the matter is the Republican budget changes nothing. Nothing for seniors. It says, you don't have to be a senior. If you are age 55 or older, we change nothing in Medicare for you. Nothing.

And yet my colleagues on the left are scaring today's seniors, scaring the folks who have the fewest number of choices in our society, scaring them into believing that folks are coming for them. Not true.


Woodall's argument that Democrats are the ones scaring seniors is rich coming from the party that created the "death panel" myth. More to the point, a significant part of Ryan's budget proposal relies on repealing the Affordable Care Act. By doing this, the "donut hole" fix contained in the health care law would be eliminated, costing seniors $2.2 billion in 2011 alone. Additionally, the centrist think tank Third Way explained that doctors would move out of the traditional Medicare plan, hurting current seniors:   

Despite promises to the contrary, current beneficiaries are not protected in the Ryan budget. Under the Republican proposal, traditional Medicare would quickly become second-class medicine. It would "wither on the vine," as then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich described a similar GOP effort in 1995.

The traditional Medicare plan, which covers three-fourths of today's beneficiaries, relies on its huge size to keep costs down. Doctors and hospitals are not required to participate in it, but they have little choice if they wish to treat any seniors, who are the nation's biggest health care consumers.

Fewer doctors would participate in the traditional Medicare plan if there were an alternative. The traditional plan pays physicians about 20% less than private health insurance plans. Today, that is essentially a discount for the large volume of Medicare patients. Under the Ryan budget, it would become a reason for doctors to leave the traditional plan.

By 2030, only 55% of Medicare beneficiaries would still be eligible for traditional Medicare according CBO. Actual enrollment would be less than half of Medicare beneficiaries because many seniors would continue to enroll in private health care coverage under Medicare Advantage. By 2040, traditional Medicare would have only about 20% of Medicare beneficiaries.

It's already been shown that Ryan's budget places a significant economic burden on future seniors. Regardless of how many Republicans repeat the lie and claim Democrats are using scare tactics, it is clear that Ryan's plan will hurt current seniors as well.