Families USA: The Voice for Health Care Consumers

Date: October 11, 2012

Dave Lemmon, Director of Communications
Bob Meissner, Deputy Director of Communications
Bryan Fisher, Press Secretary

Press Release

Consumer Analysis: Romney-Ryan Health Care Plans Hurt Current Medicare Recipients in Five Major Ways

Analysis Is Response to Romney’s Oct. 3 Comment: “So if you’re 60 or around 60 or older, you don’t need to listen any further . . . .”

Analysis of Romney Medicare Proposals Sounds Loud Warning that Nation’s Seniors Need to Hear

Washington, D.C.—An analysis released today by Families USA of the health care proposals of presidential and vice-presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan reveals that current Medicare recipients would see at least five major areas of tremendous harm to their health coverage if those plans are implemented.

The analysis—scheduled for release in advance of the first vice-presidential debate, set for this evening—was prepared in response to Governor Mitt Romney’s comment in the first presidential debate, where he said on the subject of Medicare changes, “So if you’re 60 or around 60 or older, you don’t need to listen any further . . . .”

The analysis, “Five Ways the Romney-Ryan Medicare Plan Hurts People 55 and Older,” argues that seniors and those approaching Medicare eligibility had better pay close attention to the issue.

The first impact of the Romney-Ryan plan is that Medicare premiums and co-insurance would increase almost immediately.

As the analysis notes, these increases would result if Romney followed through with his commitment to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, thereby eliminating the $716 billion in reductions to Medicare spending, which the candidate has continued to misrepresent as a cut in Medicare benefits.

It’s important to note that the structure of Medicare, as enacted in 1965, requires that Medicare premiums be directly tied to Medicare expenditures. A decrease in Medicare expenditures allows for a reduction in premiums and vice-versa.

Because the spending cut represents curbing of excessive Medicare payments to insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals, restoring that spending—that is, restoring Medicare overpayments—would lead to an increase in Medicare premiums and co-insurance averaging $347 per year over the next 10 years.

The Romney-Ryan plan weakens the traditional Medicare program for today’s seniors.

Were their plan to be put in place, everyone born after 1958 would be given a limited voucherto purchase private insurance or stay in traditional Medicare. This would be a bonanza for insurers, who are adept at attracting younger, healthier members. Traditional Medicare, then, would continue to provide coverage to today’s aging seniors.

Today’s seniors might not see an immediate impact, but in a decade, as they age and require more health care, they would find themselves in a program that is increasingly made up of less healthy members, and the added costs of treatment would lead directly to higher premiums.

In addition, today’s Medicare beneficiaries have unparalleled access to physicians, but reductions to the traditional Medicare population would likely mean that doctors would be less inclined to accept traditional Medicare. Those who opted out of Medicare would also face financial and health coverage challenges, because rising health care costs would result in their vouchers paying for less and less of their premiums. The result for both groups would be a loss of control over their choice of doctor and thousands of dollars out of their own pockets in health coverage.

“The governor’s remark was not only patronizing and condescending to senior viewers of the debate, but it also was very misleading,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. “The Medicare changes proposed by the governor and his running mate would have a hugely destructive and long-lasting effect on traditional Medicare, on current Medicare beneficiaries, and on their families.”

The Romney-Ryan plan would immediately spur higher costs for prescription drugs.

Simply stated, repealing the Affordable Care Act reopens the infamous prescription drug coverage gap, the so-called “doughnut hole,” which would be nearly $3,800 in 2013 and would grow each year. As the health care law has moved to close this big gap in drug coverage, last year, nearly 4 million people with Medicare saved an average of $613 on prescription drugs. These savings would disappear.
Repealing the Affordable Care Act also immediately eliminates Medicare’s new “wellness visits” and re-imposes out-of-pocket costs for preventive servicessuch as colonoscopies and mammograms. Almost 26 million beneficiaries received at least one preventive service last year, but these services with no copayments or out-of-pocket costs would vanish.

The Romney-Ryan plan would deplete the Medicare trust fund.

According to the Medicare Trustees report, reforms within the Affordable Care Act have extended the life and solvency of the Medicare trust fund until 2024. Over the past decades, bipartisan action in Congress has always strengthened and extended the life of the Medicare trust fund, but the Romney-Ryan plan ends that cooperative effort. Eliminating the Affordable Care Act would mean that the Medicare trust fund would run short in 2016—before the end of the next president’s term of office.

The Romney-Ryan plan would gut Medicaid.

Their plan for dramatic cuts to Medicaid would have a direct impact on Medicare beneficiaries, because it’s Medicaid, not Medicare, that provides the coverage for people to live in nursing homes or to receive long-term care that allows them to remain in their homes. These cuts would begin to take effect right away, and as the Romney-Ryan plan approached its goal of a one-third cut in Medicaid, these cuts would have an increasingly devastating effect on frail seniors and their families, who would bear the burden of care.

“For America’s seniors, the Medicare program is a lifeline. Unfortunately, the Romney-Ryan Medicare proposals would fray that lifeline,” Pollack said.

“These proposals would increase Medicare premiums, force seniors to pay considerably more for their prescription medicines and preventive care services,and cause many physicians to stop seeing Medicare patients. They also would hasten the program’s insolvency,” Pollack said. “The result is that seniors would lose the peace of mind they now enjoy, knowing that high-quality, affordable care is there for them.”

“Governor Romney understands that it’s politically impossible to pass legislation ending traditional Medicare,” said Max Richtman, President and CEO, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. “However, the Romney/Ryan ‘CouponCare’ plan is a means to that end by putting traditional Medicare into a death spiral. Seniors will end up going back in time, to the days before Medicare, where they will once again be at the mercy of private insurance companies. Giving them a voucher that loses value over time means older Americans will pay more for less while private insurance companies reap the gains.”


Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers and is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501(c)(4) organization that does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates. Its mission is to achieve high-quality, affordable health coverage and care for all Americans.

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