Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 16, 2014

Fred Goldenberg: Cutting budgets and inflicting pain

BY FRED GOLDENBERG
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Once again Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has trundled out his latest iteration of his 2011 budget which went down in flames during his 2012 vice-presidential bid.

Sadly, this version is even more mean-spirited than the previous ones. Ryan and his cohorts plan on slashing Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, early childhood education, transportation and any other safety net program they can get their hands on. And of course, for the 58th time, repeal the Affordable Care Act.

An analysis of the budget proposal by the Centers on Budget Policies and Priorities points out that 62 percent of the spending cuts would come from low-income programs, while 37 percent of its tax benefits would go to those making more than $1 million per year.

At 6 p.m. on March 31, I went home after enrolling my last client on the Healthcare.gov Marketplace website. They joined the other 7.1 million Americans who took advantage of the health insurance coverage offered at fair and reasonable rates through the Affordable Care Act.

The next morning, April 1, my phone started ringing with clients who needed information regarding the Healthy Michigan Plan, which is our Medicaid expansion program. We’ve been directing people every day to the best resources available to them and the best way to get them.

When we get the final numbers, it is possible that upwards to 21 million Americans will have taken advantage of the Marketplace, Medicaid expansion and those under 26 who stayed on their parents plan to buy health insurance through the free market system.

In the latest issue of the Kaiser Health News, Shannon Brownlee and Eric Schultz point out that although current Medicare coverage is universal for the beneficiary, the amount of reimbursement to the providers is different throughout the country. For example, in Minneapolis, Medicare spends an average of $7,000 per beneficiary which is on the low end. In McAllen, Texas, Medicare spends about $16,000 per beneficiary.

The cost difference isn’t because Medicare is frivolously spending money. It’s because in the higher cost areas people are sicker and the cost of health care is higher. Poverty and chronic disease are the main reasons for the disparity.

Ryan’s budget proposes that in 2022, Medicare beneficiaries will receive an $8,000 voucher, which is the current average spent by Medicare, to go out and buy coverage through private insurance companies. In Minneapolis, $8,000 may buy a fantastic plan covering every aspect of health care but in McAllen $8,000 would purchase a plan probably worse than those the Affordable Care Act is designed to get rid of.

We are not dealing with a health care system anymore but a sick care system. It is predicted that within 20 years we will have more than one hundred million diabetics in this country. We are overweight, under active and addicted to processed foods. If Mr. Ryan thinks he can deal with the current 67 million people on Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA by throwing them under the bus, he’ll need a much bigger bus in the next decade.

Fred L. Goldenberg is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and the owner of Senior Benefit Solutions, LLC, a pre and post retirement income specialist and certified health insurance advisor in Traverse City. If you have any questions or comments about this article or any other senior issue he can be reached at 231-922-1010 or fred@srbenefitsolutions.com.