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Letter: The Truth About Medicare

(Editor’s Note: The writer of this letter is Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.)

Listening to both parties’ conventions, one has to wonder whose plan is actually bad for seniors. The simple answer is the Republicans, but the more complete and thorough answer is the Democrats. Here is the truth about both plans.

The Republican plan (or the Ryan plan) would replace the current system with one in which seniors are given a voucher to buy private health insurance.  However, as health care costs rise, the vouchers would not rise with them, creating a ‘gap’ that would have to be filled by the senior. Over time the gap could become so significant that many seniors wouldn’t be able to afford covering it.

The Democrats in their Affordable Care Act cut over $700 billion from Medicare. However, they did not touch benefits, instead opting to decrease payments to doctors and hospitals. It is like going to a restaurant and saying we want steak but will only give you the cost of a burger. Over time, more and more hospitals will shut down because of they won’t have the funds due to such low reimbursement, and seniors will have fewer, worse hospitals to choose from.

Medicare is a mess, but the notion that simply cutting reimbursements can solve the problem is simply not true. True reform means weighing all the options, including changing the retirement age, testing whether those who already have coverage from other sources should receive benefits, and whether personal wealth should matter. The Democrats’ approach simply replaces the current problem with another, more significant one.

Ruchir Gupta