The New York special election ended on May 24 with Democrat Kathy Hochul's victory. Hochul's opponent Jane Corwin lost her initial lead when she supported a GOP budget plan that would cut billions from Medicare.
The long-debated GOP plan to overhaul Medicare was originally proposed by Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee. It planned to replace the existing Medicare system, headed for insolvency by 2024, with subsidies to help seniors pay for private health insurance.
The debate over reshaping Medicare and Medicaid is at the center of the political debate over the 2012 budget. For Republicans, the Medicare debate has been a hard sell, and a potentially deadly one, unless the voters' focus is on deficit reduction and the national debt. If U.S. voters remain committed to Medicare as the central issue, Democrats would be in better shape, which Hochul's win indicates.
After Kathy Hochul's victory, Ryan criticized the Democrats saying, There is a Medicare story to be told here and that Medicare story is that Democrats have chosen to shamelessly distort and demagogue the issue to try to scare seniors.
Just how scary and deadly is the proposed Medicare Reform?
Medicare is a single payer healthcare system where the government establishes guidelines on what doctors and hospitals can charge for services for the retirees. Medicare pays the health care providers and collects affordable premiums through Social Security deductions.
According to Ryan, we can save Medicare, but we have to reform it so that it delivers the high quality we expect at a price we can afford. Experts agreed that Medicare was a top driver of unsustainable costs, which can double over the next decade, Ryan said.
The reality is that there is a degree of competition in Medicare. Medicare Advantage, a program where private insurers compete to cover Medicare recipients who can choose these plans instead of Medicare. It has done nothing to stem rising Medicare costs. In addition, health care costs are rising just as fast outside of Medicare, in the private insurance market where there is plenty of competition and more consumers are attuned to price, according to Kate Pickert on TIME blog.
The House-passed budget will not charge those 55 years old or older, but will incur a reform for current taxpayers and future generations. The plan is to provide financial support to help future Medicare recipients pay for the insurance plan of their choice, creating competition among insurance providers. Insurance will cost less and quality will improve, which Ryan described as the way it always works when the consumer is in charge.
Many are concerned about Medicare's reform deadliness for the future generation.
Republicans have claimed the Medicare reform is for the next generation, everyone 55 or under who will be eligible for the plan upon its launch in 10 years.
This means that the Ryan plan will continue to provide the older generation with the same benefits while leaving the next generation in a highly insecure and unpredictable place with a coupon for private health insurance.
On her blog, journalist Maryann Tobin stated,
The removal of government pressure on insurance companies through standardized Medicare pricing will cause insurance rates to skyrocket. Employers struggling to cover employees now due to rising costs will be forced to drop coverage, thus adding millions to the ranks of the uninsured. The vouchers will not compare to the high insurance rates, resulting in greater medical care cost for the elderly. Furthermore, hospitals no longer receiving guaranteed payments from the government through Medicare will refuse to treat elderly patients knowing they will not get paid, Tobin added.
At Tuesday's New York race, fears over Medicare have played a significant role. According to a poll conduced by Sienna College from May 18 to 20, 21% of the voters said Medicare was the single most important issue to them. The Medicare issue is likely to be one of most deadly factor for Republican presidential candidates.