Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney's Not So Bold, Not So Specific Medicare Plan


And I said, "Here, let me show you my Superman."

A number of prominent Republicans and conservative outlets have praised Mitt Romney's half-baked, have-it-both ways Medicare plan. Not The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein, who today delves into why the former Massachusetts governor's plan is neither specific nor particularly compelling, and why that's a problem:

Like Ryan's plan, Romney's approach would transition to a system in which seniors are given subsidies to choose among a variety of health care plans. But Romney would also offer seniors the choice to remain in traditional Medicare.

One of the biggest potential problems is that it would be hard to create a level playing field between traditional Medicare and private plans, for many of the same reasons conservatives vigorously opposed a "public option" in Obamacare. But in some ways, creating fair competition would be even more difficult under Romney's proposal.

Romney has not specified at what point his reforms would kick in. But as an example, in 2024, according to projections from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there will be 71.2 million seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare, giving it market power to set prices and shift costs onto private plans.

About four million Americans turning 65 that year would be theoretically eligible to choose private coverage. How do you create a competitive market when one participant starts off with at least 95 percent market share?

Romney's plan also promises that the price for seniors to buy into traditional Medicare would reflect the program's cost to government. But is it realistic to depend on future Congresses to raise premiums for seniors if necessary to cover costs? And what would be included in the cost calculation?

Private health care plans, for instance, have to pay for salaries, office space and other such administrative costs. Yet when it comes to Medicare, those costs are spread among the federal budget. Would they be included when setting premiums? If not, it's another unfair advantage for traditional Medicare.

Beyond the plan's lack of important specifics, Klein also points out that Romney's plan starts out as a watered down version of the most recent Paul Ryan plan (which itself was a compromised version of an older version of his own plan). Inevitably, any legislative process designed to push a plan like this through Congress would water the plan down further. Of course, that assumes that Romney's plan is designed to lead to actual legislation that he'll someday attempt to pass. Of that I am skeptical, to say the least. Instead, like so much of what he's put on offer, it appears to be designed to help him win the GOP presidential nomination without committing him to much of anything. 

More on Romney's vow to protect and preserve Medicare here

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  1. like so much of what he’s put on offer, it appears to be designed to help him win the GOP presidential nomination without committing him to much of anything.

    Word. What a doofus!

  2. While it may not be a compelling plan (or even a good one), the other side of the equation is, of course, Congress. If financial conservatives who are serious about reigning in control of the budget are the majority in Congress, then it would not matter if Romney is a flake on the issue. I don’t see him vetoing any legislation passed by a Republican Congress (he’ll want to be re-elected after all), so the down ballot races are much more important than the top of the ticket as long as someone who is not outright hostile to cuts gets elected. If Congress remains bad on the budget issue, it doesn’t really matter if it’s Romney or Paul in the Oval Office, nothing will change.

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  4. Serious plans will have to be proposed for the reform of Medicare, as the program will otherwise continue to consume unprecedented levels of federal revenues. Medicare spending is expected to jump from $522.8 billion in 2010 to $932 billion in 2020, and will account for between 5.2% and 5.9% of gross domestic product by 2030. With the gradual retirement of the baby boom generation, the number of beneficiaries is projected to grow from 47.4 million in 2010 to almost 81 million in 2030 (

    In order to curb this out-of-control growth, reforms in several areas can be implemented that, if adopted, would save $9.4 trillion by 2035 when compared with Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baselines. The government should implement cost caps (approximately $5,500) on catastrophic illness. This would reduce the use of secondary policies and decrease overutilization of medical resources. Also, the government needs to implement an additional premium on beneficiaries to cover deficits within the Hospitalization Insurance Program ? it cannot receive funds from general government revenues to finance its deficits, and will be insolvent by 2020, according to the CBO.
    Furthermore, beneficiaries’ contribution toward Part B of Medicare should be increased gradually from 25% to 35% to reduce the fund’s reliance on general tax revenues. The same policy should be implemented for Part D of Medicare. Finally, benefits for the wealthiest recipients should gradually be phased out (

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