Another unhappy South Dakotan sends me a letter full of Newspeak from Congresswoman Kristi Noem. The voter wrote to the Congresswoman to express concern over the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid Noem voted for in Rep. Paul Ryan's budget last month. Rep. Noem labors desperately to say that cuts are not cuts.
On May 3, the Congresswoman writes:
False information has circulated that this budget plan would end Medicare [Rep. Kristi Noem, letter to constituent, 2011.05.03].
False information? Congresswoman Noem apparently believes that if she dismantles a government program, replaces it with something very different, and slaps the old name on it, she still has the same old program. Eliminating guaranteed government health insurance for the elderly, handing them a subsidy check, and throwing them out to the private market is not Medicare. The Ryan budget ends Medicare. Ends it, ends it, ends it.
Secondly, the budget plan does not cut Medicare. Medicare spending would rise each year, resulting in an increase of nearly $400 billion over the next ten years [Noem, 2011.05.03].
It will sure feel like a cut to seniors, who will pay even more out of pocket or just go without, says the Congressional Budget Office:
Under the proposal, the gradually increasing number of Medicare beneficiaries participating in the new premium support program would bear a much larger share of their health care costs than they would under the traditional program.... That greater burden would require them to reduce their use of health care services, spend less on other goods and services, or save more in advance of retirement than they would under current law [emphasis mine; Congressional Budget Office, letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, 2011.04.05].
Noem then plays for the selfish senior vote:
Under this plan, people currently on Medicare and those 55 years and older would see no changes in their Medicare benefits [Noem, 2011.05.03].
This is the clever part to keep current senior citizens off Noem's back. As long as Grandma and Grandpa don't think about the younger folks in their family, Noem's just fine. But the moment decent seniors realize that the Ryan budget gives them all the candy and hoses everyone under 55, Noem's in trouble.
Now for some deep Noem-speak:
Under the FY 2012 budget plan, future Medicare beneficiaries can choose a plan that works best for them from a list of guaranteed coverage options [Noem, 2011.05.03].
Funny: for 40 years, lots of seniors have felt that the best plan for them comes from Uncle Sam. The Ryan budget ends that public coverage. There's not even a public option. Noem voted to privatize Medicare for everyone under 55. Noem wants to end Medicare and replace it with subsidized, mandated, and more expensive private insurance.
And that proposal is the worst senior health care policy possible:
By the time you get to Paul Ryan's Framework #5, you have the worst of all worlds: restricted choice, highest costs, the most cost shifting, and the greatest vulnerability to market power being exercised by the highly concentrated insurance and health industries.
And because Ryan eliminates the government's ability to lower administrative costs and use its buying power to lower prices, his plan is guaranteed to have the most expensive outcome [John Chandley, "Paul Ryan Misrepresents the 'Mandate' in His Medicare Voucher Plan, Again," FireDogLake, 2011.05.05].
The Medicare changes Noem supports are so extreme, so unpopular, so downright bad, that even the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has said it is pointless to try pushing it.
Yet Noem forges on, doggedly spinning her plan as doing more for low-income folks:
The reformed Medicare program would offer more help for lower-income seniors and those living with greater health risks [Noem, 2011.05.03].
More word games: nobody gets more help under Noem's plan than under Medicare as we know it. At least some seniors will get less coverage:
The premium support payments would also vary with the income of the beneficiary. People in the top 2 percent of the annual income distribution of the Medicare-eligible population would receive 30 percent of the premium support amount described above; people in the next 6 percent of the distribution would receive 50 percent of the amount described above; and people in the remaining 92 percent of the distribution would receive the full premium support amount described above [CBO to Ryan, 2011.04.05].
This deceptive letter shows how much Kristi Noem has changed her tune since last year's campaign. No matter how much Noem and her fellow Republicans try to avoid saying it, no matter how much they don't want us to talk about it, Kristi Noem and the House GOP voted to end Medicare.