The following guest opinion by Senator Tom Harkin appeared in the the Cedar Rapids Gazette Saturday.
When Mitt Romney named Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate, he reminded Iowans of the choice we face in this election. One of the proposals in the extreme House Republican budget that Congressman Ryan crafted is its plan to end Medicare as we know it.
Romney and Ryan would raise seniors’ health costs by thousands of dollars while leaving millions of seniors across the country to the whims of insurance companies.
The Romney-Ryan plan would radically transform the program by giving seniors a voucher to buy coverage from a private insurance company or traditional Medicare — but the vouchers would not be enough to cover health costs.
Romney and Ryan will not tell us the value of the voucher — they have only been clear that they could charge seniors more if they stayed in the traditional Medicare. Nonpartisan economists say the 2012 Ryan budget could increase out-of-pocket costs for future seniors by almost $6,000.
Romney also has admitted that whatever the value of the vouchers, it would grow more slowly than health care costs.
And the Romney-Ryan plan would leave Medicare in a death spiral. Healthy seniors would opt for private insurance, leaving sick seniors in the existing Medicare program and driving up the costs even further.
Iowa seniors cannot afford these reckless plans. Today, 17 percent of the state’s residents rely on Medicare.
President Obama is strengthening Medicare by eliminating gaps in coverage and reducing the cost of prescription drugs. And according to Medicare’s actuaries, he’s extending Medicare’s solvency by eight years, from 2016 to 2024, by fighting fraud and abuse and getting rid of wasteful subsidies to insurance companies.
ObamaCare is already benefiting Iowa’s seniors. Last year, more than 42,000 Iowans on Medicare saved about $600 each on prescription drug costs. Nearly three in four seniors received free preventive care.
Romney and Ryan would revoke all of those benefits. They would strip away protections against waste, and give insurance companies more taxpayer money while undermining the earned health security of Iowa’s seniors. According to the Congressional Budget Office and staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the repeal bill passed by the House on July 11 also increases the deficit by $109 billion over 2013-2022.
The bottom line: The president will protect Medicare, while Romney and Ryan would end it as we know it. That fundamental difference makes the choice this November just as clear.