Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maryland's Radicals on Parade

from The Hill
Rep. Edwards protests against Ryan at town-hall meeting

In a rare move for a member of Congress, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) led a protest Monday outside a town-hall meeting featuring House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Ryan joined Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), and Gov. Nikki Haley (S.C.) for a taping of a town-hall meeting to be broadcast on CBS, at the Newseum in Washington.

“No to Ryan, Yes to Medicare!” Edwards and several dozen protesters chanted.

The American Federation of Government Employees, The National Association of Letter Carriers, Americans United for Change and Planned Parenthood were among the groups protesting the House-passed 2012 budget, authored by Rep. Ryan.

That plan would transform Medicare for those currently under 55 years old into a sort of voucher system that would be used in the private insurance market once they reach retirement. The system now a single-payer system for seniors.

Edwards said that to control the deficit, taxes must be raised on the wealthy and subsidies for oil- and-gas companies must be eliminated before any reforms to Medicare are discussed.

“First of all we’ve got tens of billion in tax breaks going to oil companies, let’s try ending those first. Second of all, a trillion over ten years going to the wealthiest 2 percent of the American public. Let’s try dealing with that first. We are engaged in at least two wars, let’s try ending those first,” she said. “Then you come me and the American people and tell me about things that need to be done to protect programs that protect Americans in their later years.”

Edwards told the crowd that the Ryan budget gives seniors a check to buy their own Medicare. This is misleading, the GOP points out, because the proposed plan is not a true voucher system even though it would operate somewhat like one. Under the budget, government payments for the premiums of seniors would go directly to private insurers.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that because that model, called premium support, does not increase alongside healthcare costs, the result will be much larger out of pocket expenses for seniors once the plan is phased in.

Medicare will be bankrupt by 2024, and Edwards dodged several questions on how to fix it. President Obama has proposed strengthening the Independent Payments Advisory Board to essentially restrict Medicare coverage for what it deems unnecessary treatments. However, this cost-control measure has opponents in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

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