The Sheriff of Nottingham
rides again, this time through our Medicare funding
appeared in the on-line version of the Portland Oregonian
Author: Samuel Metz
Robin Hood was legendary for stealing from the rich and
giving to the poor. Now Rep. Paul Ryan proposes to do the
opposite: he will rob poor seniors of their health care
dollars and give tax breaks to the rich.
Rep. Ryan's gallantly titled "Path to Prosperity" proposal
will convert government Medicare spending to a lump-sum
voucher program. This looks like a heck of a deal if you
are rich enough to pay for your family's current health
care (and rich enough to pay for your own when you are
old, gray, retired, and living on a fixed income). But if
you already struggle to pay your health insurance premiums
(presuming you are lucky enough to have coverage at all)
and have no money left to pay for deductibles, co-pays,
excluded conditions, and medications, Sherwood Forest
starts to look like your best retirement home.
Rep. Ryan's proposal is so simple even the Sheriff of
Nottingham would envy it. By reducing Federal spending on
the health care needs of our seniors, well, we reduce
Federal spending. What's not to love about that?
If you're not among the privileged nobility, there's a lot
not to like. Remember that even under current Medicare
rules, seniors who need health care (roughly all of them)
pay 40% of their health care expenses with out-of-pocket
dollars. Under the Sheriff of Nottingham plan (sorry,
that's Rep. Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" plan), seniors in
the year 2030 (that's all of us who are at least 48 years
old) will pay half our total incomes on health insurance
premiums. The other half will pay for deductibles,
co-pays, excluded conditions, and medications.
And where will we get money to pay for food, rent, heat,
and clothes? The way the poor burghers in old Nottingham
did: we won't.
And even the purchase of a policy won't guarantee health
care. There's nothing in the "Path to Prosperity" that
requires an insurance company to offer anything other than
a one page statement, "This is a health insurance policy."
If that's all you can buy for your lump sum, you might as
well use the policy for compost. The Center for Economic
Policy and Research estimates that under this plan our
soon-to-be starving, homeless, freezing, dressed-in-rags
seniors will cough up an extra $20 trillion of their own
money to get health care in the next 75 years. We better
start selling our chickens at yard sales right now.
The Sheriff of Nottingham would be insanely jealous of
this revolutionary plan. Tax the poor and give them no
services? Spare yourself and other wealthy nobles any
taxes at all? Brilliant!
But when the Sheriff celebrates his 65th birthday, he
might find himself roasting hot dogs around the camp fire
with Friar Tuck, Little John, and Robin if he wants to get