Keegan Gibson reports on the first general election scuffle in the 12th district:
Rep. Mark Critz is still hammering the Medicare drum. Once in a blue moon can a politician find a single issue that can carry him or her through both a primary and a general election with equal efficacy. But after Keith Rothfus announced he’d be speaking at a Tea Party Express event in Pittsburgh Thursday evening, Critz went on the attack.
The Tea Party Express has received criticism from Democrats on a host of issues. But the relevant accusation this week is that the group wants to end Medicare. Democrats say the their official support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget demonstrates their lack of support for senior citizens. They’re using it to tag Keith Rothfus, an Allegheny County attorney and Critz’s GOP opponent.
“By rallying with the Tea Party Express, Keith Rothfus confirms that he supports ending Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, costing seniors an additional $6,000 a year in out of pocket-expenses while at the same time cutting taxes for millionaires like himself,” Critz’s campaign spokesman Mike Mikus said in a press release.
He also used Medicare as a wedge issue in his primary, via the Balanced Budget Amendment. Rep. Jason Altmire supported the BBA, which Critz effectively cast as a threat to the entitlement program.
Rothfus tries to muddy the issue, but Critz is totally correct about this. The RyanCare plan that all House Republicans support ends guaranteed benefits in Medicare, which is the crux of the program. Igor Volsky explains:
Ryan’s plan ends traditional fee-for-service program and forces seniors to ultimately enroll in private coverage.
Under his proposal, beginning in 2022, people turning 65 will receive a pre-determined “premium support” payment to purchase private coverage. The insurers will offer a basic package of benefits, but traditional Medicare — the program that President Lyndon Johnson enacted in 1965 — will literally stop enrolling new beneficiaries. Rather than paying health care providers directly — and using its market clout to secure better bargains and other efficiencies for enrollees — the government would now pay multiple private health insurers pre-determined amounts per beneficiary to act as middle men between patients and providers.
It will no longer guarantee seniors a defined package of benefits, but will instead only offer a defined contribution towards their health care costs. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of Ryan’s proposal explains, “the payment for 65-year-olds in 2022 is specified to be $8,000, on average, which is approximately the same dollar amount as projected net federal spending per capita for 65-year-olds in traditional Medicare.”
However every subsequent year, as health care costs increase, the government’s contribution “would grow at a slower rate,” inflation, and the age of the enrollee. By 2030, under the proposal, the premium support would “only cover 32 percent of a typical 65-year-old’s total health care spending” and would decrease every subsequent year.