HHS Secretary Sebelius: Under Ryan's Medicare Plan, Seniors Will "Die Sooner"


Just. Keep. Smiling.

For a year or more, Indiana's Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, has been telling anyone who will listen that if the country's political leaders want to fix Medicare, they're going to have to stop playing "the granny card." He's complained about Republicans playing it. He's complained about Democrats playing it. And he's even sympathetic, in a way. "I have to say, the granny card has been played so cynically against Republicans so many times, that I can certainly understand the turnabout there. But it is not a grownup attitude," he told the American Spectator's Philip Klein in 2010. 

Grownup, it's not. But it is convenient, and does seem to be politically effective, at least in the short term—which is probably why you can find Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius accusing Rep. Paul Ryan of pushing a Medicare plan under which seniors will "die sooner." Here's the full quote, via Politico:

During testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee, she said seniors "will run out of money very quickly."

She continued, "If you run out of the government voucher and then you run out of your own money, you're left to scrape together charity care, go without care, die sooner. There really aren't a lot of options." [bold added]

In other words, Republicans are coming to kill Granny. 

But of course, they aren't. Even if you don't like Ryan's premium-support proposal (I think it has a number of flaws), you can't say it would hurt today's seniors, or even tomorrow's. For better or for worse, the premium support system wouldn't fully kick in for ten year: Anyone currently enrolled in Medicare or within a decade of eligibility would be allowed to participate in the system as it exists today. So it's folks who are today in their early 50s who would be the first to interact with the new system—a system that would still provide broad, means-tested subsidies with which to purchase insurance. 

Here's a thought experiment: What would seniors do without any form of Medicare at all? It's tough to run a controlled experiment, but we have something of a natural test: comparing the years before Medicare was introduced and the years after. And according to a 2007 study by MIT's Amy Finkelstein, "the introduction of Medicare had no discernible impact on elderly mortality in its first ten years in operation." And remember, Ryan's plan isn't to bulldoze the system and let seniors go it alone. Instead, he wants to overhaul the system in such a way that every senior still has access to taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, but in a way that requires the federal government to spend less money to keep the system running.

Would spending less on Medicare really be so bad for the health of America's seniors? Probably not, according to none other than the White House's economic team, which in 2009 asserted that "nearly 30 percent of Medicare's costs could be saved without adverse health consequences." Despite what Sebelius says, under Ryan's Medicare plan, Granny would be just fine. 

NEXT: Very Grown-Up Wash Post Columnist Dana Milbank Pooh-Poohs Lack of Grown-Ups at GOP Debate

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  1. “HHS Secretary Sebelius: Under Ryan’s Medicare Plan, Seniors Will “Die Sooner””

    She makes that sound like a bad thing.

    1. “HHS Secretary Sebelius: Under Ryan’s Medicare Plan, Seniors Will “Die Sooner””

      I took this to mean that they would all be rounded up and put into Oklahoma death-camps.

  2. In other words, Republicans are coming to kill Granny.

    Ridiculous! Everyone knows that’s the libertarian proposal

    1. We prefer the term “harvest”, thank you.

      1. Children of the Corn Porn?

      2. It’s a cook book!

      3. Soylent Green is people!

      4. Get enough together you’ve got one hell of a human centipede…

  3. I thought the whole purpose of those death panels was to eliminate the burdensome grannies in the first place. In hindsight, that seemed extraordinarily shortsighted. Their votes are the main fuel for the entitlement engine.

    1. lol. Reusing links is dangerous too

      1. No it’s not, rectal. No one clicks your links, so there’s no danger. God, you’re stupid.

        1. Referrer Views
          reason.com 3,228

          1. How long did it take you to click your own link 3,228 times?

            1. Seriously, he is counting his “referral views”?

              That’s hilarious.

              Life, go get one Rather.

            2. I find rather to be a handsome woman.


              1. Aw man. That was like looking at a car wreck. I just couldn’t turn away.

              2. was it hard to type the link with sugarfree’s dick in your mouth?

  4. Without Medicare there will be no health care for the elderly.
    None at all.
    If government doesn’t do it then nobody will do it.
    Just like without the FDA all food would be poison.
    This is evidenced by the fact that all food was poison before the FDA.
    Without the Department of Education there would be no schools. I know this because that department was created in my lifetime, and I remember that there were no schools before its creation. None at all.
    So with this in mind I must oppose all cuts to Medicare because that would mean that once someone reaches sixty five they will die. Just like that. *Poof* dead.

    1. *gulp*

    2. You’ve got it all wrong. They don’t just drop dead when they turn 65. Republicans throw them off a cliff. That’s how it happened before Medicare.

  5. You know, I’m beginning to wonder if this strategy of playing the granny card is going to become less of a factor in the coming years. Implementation of Obamacare is going to result in less overall services being provided to seniors in general (Obama:”hey Granny, you don’t need that hip replacement, just take some of these pills until you finally die.”). This has to at some point cause a backlash amongst seniors who aren’t buying the granny card push anymore. Medicare Advantage is an enormously popular program (or was) with seniors because they were able to dictate better where their money was spent.

    Add this to the fact that the Tea Parties are full of card carrying medicare patients, I’m not sure how much longer the granny card remains that high in the deck.

  6. Isn’t seniors dying 3-4 weeks later a big part of our cost problem?

    Dying sooner sounds like a legitimate policy solution. The resources taxpayers are being forced to spend to squeeze out those last few weeks is rather ridiculous.

    But of course, you’ll never hear a politician say that.

    1. Of course those numbers are a load of horseshit. Of course most of the medical expenses you incur in your lifetime are going to be in the last few weeks. That is when you are the sickest.

      Two things to think about. First, we only know after you are dead that the treatment didn’t work. For example, if I got hit and killed by a bus tommorow, the cost of taking me to the emgergency room and giving me CPR and the like would all be a part of end of life care. By the “stop end of life care” logic, they should have just left me to die. The problem with that logic is that you don’t know if some treatment is going to work or not until we give it to you.

      Yeah, there are cases where they are giving treatment to people who are hopeless. But that spending gets lumped in with all the treatment that goes to people who were not hopeless but just were not lucky enough to live. So in the end, if you want to get rid of end of life care, you are going to wind up killing a lot of people who would have otherwise lived.

      1. John makes a good point. Medical care is not AT ALL like what people see on television. People don’t want to know it, but there is alot of uncertainty. Hindsight is always 20:20.

    2. Actually, Mitch Daniels came close: https://reason.com/blog/2011/02…..-inevitabi

      1. But he offered no hard numbers to back that up. He just repeated the same myth that all end of life care is unneccesary and wasteful.

        1. There’s also one of the issues that makes American medicine unique: patients get to decide whether they get that 4th round of chemotherapy when the chance of response is less than 10%.

          Good luck finding a health care system in Europe that spends much money treating metastatic lung or esophageal cancer.



    Now that I have your attention….

    The only way to “fix” Medicare, is to “fix” the entire health insurance industry. Any plan that doesn’t deal with eliminating the employer provided system, and removing anti-competitive regulations, is dead in the water. But no one to be talking about that.

    1. Ever notice that they never reference grandpas? Sexist bastards.

      1. Because men know when it is time to die.

        1. Godddam right.

          1. I believe that the male death ritual typically involves a glacier and a hatchet.

            1. I love being a man. Every morning I think, “maybe I should just sack the fuck up and die today.” One day, I will follow through on that, and it’ll be before Uncle Scam blows a million bucks on me.

            2. Hey, what about the 72 virgins?
              – or 57, or 93, whatever it is –

              1. Real men conquer 72 virgins in life because we know there is no afterlife.

                1. Virgins suck. In fact, it’s usually the only thing they’re good at.

  8. During testimony before the House Education and the Workforce Committee, she said seniors “will run out of money very quickly.”

    Yes, unlike the federal or state governments.

  9. So, if I introduce a bill transferring all of Kathleen Sebelius’ wealth and, all future income to Medicare, she’d support it? After all, without that money, seniors will die sooner.

    1. Why does she hate seniors so?

  10. Do you want to live forever?

    1. Another one bites the dust.

      1. Maybe I just want to fly
        I want to live I don’t want to die
        Maybe I just want to breath
        Maybe I just don’t believe
        Maybe you’re the same as me
        We see things they’ll never see
        You and I are gonna live forever

    2. Nope.

    3. I want to fly Air-rotica

      1. (that was for Valeria)

  11. I swear that woman is the White Witch.

  12. I have no doubt that in her day she was quite the dominatrix.

  13. Sebelius is a good little puppet.

    1. Dance, meat puppet! Dance!
      It likes the strings or it
      gets the fist. Again.

  14. Of course, under her plan, they’ll also die sooner, as the result of rationing.

  15. Only one candidate for 2012 has proven that he knows how to solve problems and fix things.

    Herman Cain! He answers questions in a direct, simple manner. He understands how to solve problems – by DEFINING the problem, determining ways to solve it, seeking experts, and then FIXING it.

    Herman Cain 2012! If you are interested check out the website.

    1. If you’re gonna post unrelated spam, at least give a link to the “the website.” Otherwise, spam fail. Your handle is funny, though.

    2. As a life long Chiefs fan, I endured the wretched reign of terror known as the Herm Edwards era. For that reason, I have significant qualms with any and every person named Herm. Sorry, RP or GJ will get my vote. (oh, and there’s also the fact that they’re, ya’know, actual fucking libertarians and not bitching about “energy independence” or failing to articulate and coherent foreign policy).

      1. Life long Chiefs fan? Wow, I didn’t know there were two of us out there. And yeah, the name Herman is a problem. But it could be worse, he could be named Carl Cain.

        1. Well, there most certainly are plenty of us. Every year, I do a stadium tour with my college roommate, and we travel to see a Chiefs road game. You’d be surprised how many Chiefs fans show up at different places. I’ve been to Denver, SD twice, and Philly. This year I’m planning on taking the missus with us to Boston for the MNF game against the Pats.

          1. I have missed them both times they were in the DC area. I need to get back and go to a game.

        2. So you need someone named Ed or Lenny or maybe even Hank. Or, hell, Jamaal.

  16. I don’t wanna pickle
    I just wanna ride my motorsickle
    And I don’t wanna die
    I just wanna
    Death Panel? to determine whether or not (and how much) End-of-Life Care? is warranted for my meager existence on this earth.

    I’ve been holding this back, but: “Kathleen Sebelius, you fuckstain of a human being, suck my motherfucking dick, and I hope you get run over by a truck and taste your own blood while you die, you fucking statist whore.”

    That is all.

  17. Speaking of motorcycles, just put a quick 150 on my “new” 2002 ZRX1200 Eddie Lawson Replica = so fun! New Dunlops, valve job, sybched the carbs – she runs like a champ!

    And no, Kathleen, you can’t have my corneas and heart just yet – I wear a helmet etc. etc. Maybe next time a truck takes me out it will kill me – so far, not so much…you dried out bureaucratic hag.

    1. I am stuck in the desert away from my bike. Man do I miss it. It really is neccessary for sanity.

      1. You don’t know from missing. I haven’t ridden mine in 16 years.

        The last I saw it, some Vietnamese kid was riding off on it, his toes barely reaching the ground.

  18. Yep, we’ve got ten years to plan for “killing granny” but 50 year olds can’t be bothered to plan for the fact they might need a different type of medical coverage than what some old person has now.

    Me? I’d rather have the voucher than the promise of current medicare because at least I know the voucher has a small chance of being there for me in 35 years.

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