Senators Wont Be Able To Duck A Medicare Privatization Vote

Isaiah J. Poole

Some House Republicans are responding to the outrage over their vote in favor of turning Medicare into a private insurance racket in sadly predictable fashion, reports The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein: They’re ducking tough questions from their constituents.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today has announced that members of the Senate are going to be compelled to take a stand on where they stand on the Republican Medicare plan and on other features of the 2012 House Republican budget, which was crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“There will be an opportunity in the Senate to vote on the Ryan budget to see if Republican senators like the Ryan budget as much as the House did,” Reid said on a conference call with reporters, according to The Huffington Post. “Without going into the Ryan budget we will see how much the Republicans like it here in the Senate.”

The Ryan budget, as we’ve outlined on TheMiddleClass.org, shreds the social compact that has existed for decades between low- and middle-income people and the federal government, using the nation’s long-term deficit crisis as a pretext for ramming an extreme right evisceration of government down our throats. Its plan for Medicare, in which future recipients would be thrown into the private insurance market and be forced to bear a dramatically higher share of their health care costs, has become the key flash point of opposition to the budget.

Earlier today, our co-director Robert Borosage issued a statement calling on Reid to bring the budget to a Senate vote.

“This Republican budget plan is an outrage. The more Americans learn about it, the angrier they get. It calls for a staggering $6.7 trillion in tax cuts over ten years – almost all for the wealthiest Americans. It pays for these by ending Medicare and Medicaid as we know them, and slashing investments in areas vital to our future – from infant nutrition, to education to clean water support. And it does virtually nothing to reduce the deficit; indeed, the Congressional Budget Office projects it may add to the deficit in the first 10 years. In an America already suffering Gilded Age economic inequality, the Republican budget would accelerate the decline of America’s working families. Bring it to a vote. Force a debate on it. Let Americans know exactly where their senators stand.”

Some senators will no doubt be as unabashed as Ryan has been in embracing a proposal that has been praised as “bold” by the Beltway elite but has been loudly booed this week by the people who are actually going to have to live with it if it is enacted.

But there are no doubt a handful of senators who are preparing for their 2012 election campaigns who would rather duck the issue, or be able to wrap themselves in a brazenly false campaign that characterizes Medicare privatization as something that “preserves” and “strengthens” Medicare. Only in the most Orwellian of worlds would ending Medicare as it now exists for a program that gives insurance companies vouchers for a sliver of the health care costs of each senior enrollee, thus shifting health costs (and private insurance overhead) onto enrollees would be dubbed “strengthening” Medicare.

This is a fundamental debate that not only speaks to how the nation will get its fiscal house in order but to what kind of America we are to become. If there are senators who honestly believe that the America of tomorrow should be one in which seniors must wrestle with the same profit-driven, virtually unregulated insurance companies that have denied care to millions by refusing to pay for vital treatments or by making their coverage unaffordable—the same insurance companies that opposed health care reform and bankrolled the takeover of the House of Representatives by a party that voted to repeal the entire health care reform law—we should know who those senators are. Let us hear them say “Aye” to the Ryan Republican Medicare privatization plan, or let us know they’ve truly come to their senses by voting “no” so we can move forward on a plan for actually caring for of our seniors rather than throwing them under the private insurance bus.

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