Constituent Demands To Know Why Rep. Lamar Smith Voted To "Dismantle" Medicare

May 19, 2011 4:27 pm ET — Brian Powell

Republicans across the country are encountering angry voters in their home districts who are upset about the Republican budget plan's dismantling of Medicare. At a town hall in San Antonio on Wednesday, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) became the latest Republican forced to defend his vote for Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) unpopular plan. Citizens are rejecting the plan because it would turn Medicare into a voucher program that would increase the health care burden on the elderly.

An angry constituent attending Smith's town hall wanted to know why he voted for the plan.

CITIZEN: My question is, sir, uh, with the majority of the people not wanting cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, uh, why did you vote to dismantle Medicare and give more tax breaks to the rich?

SMITH: My gosh, I'm not aware that I voted that way. What bill was that, that you think?

CITIZEN: The House? Aren't you with the House?

JOE PAGLIARULO (MODERATOR): He's in the House, yes.

SMITH: Oh, you're talking about the House budget?

CITIZEN: Yeah, the Ryan — the Ryan plan.

SMITH: Let me clarify that, because it — it did not hurt Medicare. We're trying to save Medicare, among other things.

Uh, two parts about it, as far as Medicare: First of all, anyone 55 years or older, it doesn't touch them in any way, shape or form. Those under 55 are going to have a choice of health care plans. They are still going to have health care coverage, but they're going to be able to pick and choose, which is better than the government dictating to them.

So we're — the reason is, if we do nothing, it's going bankrupt. And so, for anyone 55 and over, again, not touched in any way. For those under, they will have a choice of health care plans. If they can't afford them, the government will help them pay for them.


While Smith continues to defend the GOP Medicare plan he voted for, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that the GOP plan would force most beneficiaries to "pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system":

"Under the proposal, most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system. For a typical 65-year-old with average health spending enrolled in a plan with benefits similar to those currently provided by Medicare, CBO estimated the beneficiary's spending on premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures as a share of a benchmark: what total health care spending would be if a private insurer covered the beneficiary. By 2030, the beneficiary's spending would be 68 percent of that benchmark under the proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario."

A wide variety of think tanks, publications and analysts have all concurred with the CBO's finding that the Ryan budget will significantly increase the burden on the elderly to pay for medical costs.