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Rehberg supports plan to end Medicare, increase federal debt

Congressman Rehberg follows Congressional extremists to take Montana down the Path to Poverty

Helena, MT -- Millionaire Congressman Dennis Rehberg is trying to tap dance around his support for an unpopular GOP budget plan that ends Medicare as we know it and increases the federal debt, but he's not fooling ordinary Montanans.

“Congressman Rehberg voted just last week to spend $300 million on a experimental school voucher program in Washington, D.C., putting our nation another $300 million in debt," said Ted Dick, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party.  "Now Congressman Rehberg wants to eliminate Medicare altogether, and that speaks volumes to where his priorities are. His irresponsible plan will do nothing to fix the federal deficit. This legislation might feel good to Congressman Rehberg and his extremist friends, but it would hurt Montana.”

In the short run, Rehberg's plan increases the cost of prescription drugs and ends access to preventative care for seniors. Altogether, the Rehberg plan will end Medicare for 20 million Americans starting in 2022.

The huge corporate giveaways in the Rehberg plan will add $8 trillion to the federal debt over the next decade [Roll Call, 4/6/11].

Congressman Rehberg has already attempted to take away Medicare from Montana seniors earlier this year, a move that could also add billions to the federal debt.

More on the plan by Rehberg and Congressman Paul Ryan, R-WI, to end Medicare and increase the federal debt:

Headline: Ryan’s Prosperity Plan Still See Big Deficits. From Roll Call, “Still, while the plan envisions paying off the national debt sometime after 2050 principally by squeezing spending on health care and other programs, it would still add more than $8 trillion to the national debt over the next decade — reaching $23 trillion in 2021. Indeed, the plan does not come close to balancing the budget in any year over that span.” [Roll Call, 4/5/11]

Under the proposal, most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system. For a typical 65-year-old with average health spending enrolled in a plan with benefits similar to those currently provided by Medicare, CBO estimated the beneficiary’s spending on premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures as a share of a benchmark: what total health care spending would be if a private insurer covered the beneficiary. By 2030, the beneficiary’s spending would be 68 percent of that benchmark under the proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario. [CBO, 4/5/11]
20 million near-elderly will not have Medicare when they retire.  Starting in 2022, Medicare will be eliminated for new beneficiaries and converted instead into a voucher program.  There are more than 20 million near-elderly Americans who are now ages 50-54 who would not get Medicare when they retire but instead only get a coupon to purchase private health insurance.  This approach would transfer control of Medicare to insurers and there would be no guaranteed benefits, essentially ending Medicare.  Moreover, the voucher will fail to keep pace with increases in the cost of health care so its value will decline every year, meaning that future seniors won’t be able to get the benefits they need or even end up uninsured.  [CBPP 3/22/11; Census 2010 data]
Voucher proposal will raise health care costs for seniors starting in 2022. The voucher will fail to keep pace with increases in the cost of health care.  As a result, seniors will be forced to pay higher premiums to access the same benefits they would receive under the current system.  Although today’s budget proposal leaves out key details, a similar plan offered by Chairman Ryan last year would have required new Medicare enrollees to pay 31% percent more for their premiums in the first year of the voucher system, an average increase of $850 per year.   [Center for American Progress, 2/15/11]

Under the Republican plan, seniors will lose guaranteed benefits.  Under current law, all seniors have guaranteed access to life-saving health benefits, including screenings for colon cancer, diabetes, and prostate cancer, as well as flu shots.  If the Republican plan becomes law, seniors that were eligible for guaranteed health benefits last year could lose their benefits. [Kaiser State Health Facts, accessed on 3/39/11]
Republican proposal could force seniors to pay $3,500 more for prescription drugs.  The proposal would “reopen” the prescription drug donut hole, requiring that seniors pay full price for prescription drugs.  As a result, on average, seniors would pay $3,500 more for their medications over the next ten years.  Seniors and people with disabilities who have high prescription drug costs could pay an additional $12,300 over the next 10 years. [HHS, 11/4/10]