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During this electoral campaign, Medicare has been in the center of the political debate. The Democrat ticket (Obama-Biden) is accusing the Republican ticket (Romney-Ryan) of planning to end Medicare as we know it, and Republicans are accusing Democrats of taking money out of Medicare to fund Obamacare.
According to a new ad released by Romney’s campaign, the Obama administration has cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The ad tries to convince voters that the money they have paid to guarantee their healthcare goes to a massive new government program that is not for them. Romney and Ryan are trying to convince the public that they are the ones that would save Medicare benefits from Obama’s cuts; if they win, Medicare benefits will be assured for future generations.
On the other hand, President Obama, during a speech in Iowa, said the Republicans are being dishonest about his Medicare plan. Obama assured the public that he has strengthened Medicare, and that his reforms have saved millions of elderly people millions of dollars on their prescription drugs. The president added that he has made reforms that will not touch Medicare benefits and stated that Romney and Ryan want to turn Medicare into a voucher system.
With this method, seniors would not have health care guaranteed; instead, they would receive a voucher to buy private insurance. According to Obama, this would make seniors pay extra money every year.
Romney’s campaign has accused President Obama of failing to fix Medicare, which they claim is broken. The Republicans claim Obama promised he would fix Medicare in his first term in office, and he has failed.
A NY Times Editorial on August 15 defends President Obama and claims that the Republican’s attacks on Obama’s plans for Medicare are getting more “heated and inaccurate.” It explains that the Republicans are criticizing Obama for taking $716 billion out of Medicare to a new government program that does not benefit the seniors, but the Republicans are not saying that the “the budget resolutions crafted by Paul Ryan and approved by the Republican-controlled House retained virtually the same cut in Medicare.”
The Editorial also explains that “the Republicans imply that the $716 billion in cuts will harm older Americans, but almost none of the savings come from reducing the benefits available for people already on Medicare.”
After all the controversy, a legitimate question would be: what is Medicare? Basically, it is a Federal insurance program that covers the medical services and hospitalizations of some elderly and disabled people. This is not to be confused with Medicaid, which was created to provide medical care to those in poverty.
The health plan is divided into two main parts and two additional ones. The first part, Hospital Insurance, helps to pay hospital stays and other additional health services such as physical therapy. This first part is available for the people almost every time without having to pay a monthly premium, because they have already paid it through their payroll deductions.
The second part of Medicare, Supplementary Medical Insurance, covers other additional services like blood transfusions or renal dialysis. This part requires a monthly premium, which currently is $99.90 (higher-income consumers have to pay more).
The third part of Medicare has the advantage that it allows the users to design their own medical plan according to their needs. These plans may enlist some private insurance companies to provide some of the services.
In 2006, Medicare expanded to a fourth part of the plan, which covers prescription drugs. This last part, administered by a private insurance company, offers different plans and prices depending on the plan you choose and of the drugs you use. It requires a payment of a deductible and a premium.
To be eligible for Medicare you have to be at least 65 years old, less than 65 but disabled, or have permanent kidney failure that requires a dialysis or a transplant. The other requirements are that you must be a citizen or a permanent legal US resident for more than five continuous years, and have ten years of contributing into the system.
Medicare basically funds from the payroll taxes and the Self-Employment Contributions Act. Any additional Medicare funding comes from premiums, deductibles, etc.
A key aspect to consider is that according to a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, Medicare is the third-most crucial issue to likely voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, just behind the economy and healthcare.
The future of this program could be decided with this election. Now it is time for the Republicans to convince the voters that, under Obama, Medicare would go bankrupt. Or, the Democrats must convince the voters that if Romney wins, Medicare would turn into a voucher system.