Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What the Republican budget would really do to Medicare

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When the new Obama administration was appointing economic advisers in 2009, there was really only one whose history suggested he could be trusted to speak up for Main Street against Wall Street speculators and against the apologies for greed that masquerade as economic wisdom. That was Jared Bernstein, previously of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank specializing in straight talk about "research and ideas for shared prosperity." Bernstein served for three years as Economic Policy Adviser to Vice President Biden.

Now he's out of the administration, not alienated, but perhaps freer to name what's going on in DC. Here's his simple description of what would really happen under Republican's plan to phase out Medicare by giving elders vouchers to pay for private insurance. The trouble is, there can be no such thing as an efficient free market in health care.

Suppose you send me to the grocery store to buy you a gallon of milk. Milk costs $3.50 a gallon but you give me $2. I spend the whole day “denying business to inefficient providers”—i.e., grocers who all charge more than that—and at the end of the day, bring you back a pint.

Now, instead of milk, where I’ve got the information I need to be a smart shopper, suppose you give me the same under-priced voucher but ask me to bring you back a plan for treating that strange pain you’ve been experiencing on your left side on humid days.

There’s no “denying business to inefficient providers” in the Ryan plan because there’s no market discipline that average folks with incomplete information armed with an inadequate voucher can enforce on a private health insurance market ...

It's not hard to see that Congressman Paul Ryan's "plan" is just a phony baloney cover for ending the federal promise of affordable, accessible health care for old people. Democrats and anyone who gives a damn about our future need to be unafraid to call out the obvious.

These days Bernstein is writing a plain speaking blog called On the Economy. If you follow this stuff -- and we have to or the medical-pharmaceutical-insurance lobby will steal us blind -- bookmark it.

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