Selection by President-elect Donald Trump of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to head Health and Human Services should alarm those concerned with security for seniors. Price is a strong proponent of “privatization” of Medicare.
Price and other House Republicans, including Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, have repeatedly voted to undermine Medicare. Price sponsored a concurrent resolution establishing the federal budget for fiscal year 2016. H. Con. Res. 27 assumed that “when future generations reach eligibility, Medicare is reformed to provide a premium support payment...” On March 25, 2015, Buchanan voted for it. Both representatives also voted for four prior Paul Ryan budget resolutions providing for converting Medicare to a “premium support” (aka “voucher”) system. These “yeas” were for FY 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 (H. Con. Res. 34, 112, 25 and 96 respectively).
Medicare faces grave financial problems, particularly with hordes of “Baby Boomers” stampeding toward retirement. Still, endangering the health and lives of seniors is not an acceptable remedy. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the proposed support payments/vouchers would soon cover only about 40 percent of healthcare costs for those over age 65, half of current coverage. Privatization could thrust this country back to the situation before enactment of Medicare in 1965, when half of seniors lacked any health insurance and what others had was generally abysmal.
President-elect Trump and Congress must not destroy Medicare. As former Vice President Hubert Humphrey observed, the “moral test” of government is how it “treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; [and] those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” How can anyone hope to “make American great again” by destroying what makes us good?