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“Saving” Medicare? Let’s Get A Few Things Straight

Dear South Dakota: Your new Congresswoman, Kristi Noem, recently claimed that her vote to destroy Medicare as we know it “saved” Medicare. Baffled? Us too.

You see, South Dakota, Kristi Noem claims that her buddy Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan won’t change things for folks 55 and over – except of course for the rising Medicare Part-D premiums that the Bush Administration never bothered to pay for. Kristi Noem also claims that folks under 55 will have guaranteed Medicare – except of course, Medicare will be privatized, her insurance company donors will be raking in the big bucks, and you better not pick the wrong “plan” because you might not get coverage when you need it most, kinda like those drug formularies currently used in Medicare Part-D plans. Oh yeah, and if you’re under 55 and already have Medicare because of a disability, well, Kristi Noem and Paul Ryan don’t plan to protect you. You’re lumped with the Medicare have-nots too.

Now, some of you may want to give Kristi Noem the benefit of the doubt. She is, after all, only a Freshman, and did, after all, just complete a congressional internship this Spring in Washington, DC. So, here’s the direct quote she gave the Sioux Falls Argus Leader yesterday:

Argus Leader: “If you look at a voucher-type program for Medicare when you retire, that’s something you want?”

Noem: “It’s not a voucher program, though. I think that’s something a lot of people like to label it. It’s essentially where insurance plans are going to be subsidized by the federal government. So it’s not where I get a voucher and pick an insurance plan. It’s totally different. It’s where the seniors get to come in and pick the plan that best fits them. Then the federal government will step in and subsidize those plans. So the voucher doesn’t ever come to the senior and they get out and shop around. It’s much more where they get their choice of plans.”

Noem goes on to say,

“And Obamacare certainly changed Medicare as we know it – half a trillion dollars in cuts, and the decisions of a 15-member board, it’s a lot different than a patient and their doctor making those decisions.”

Agreed – her explanation of what a voucher is not sounds a lot like the definition of a voucher. Again, benefit of the doubt – she’s a freshman intern. Perhaps more interestingly, Noem attacks changes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made to Medicare Advantage Plans, plans that cost the government more per patient than standard Medicare for the same services. There are also a lot of seniors out there who could tell you they’re okay with President Obama working to reduce the amount of waste and fraud within the Medicare system (though of course, if Noem gets her way, those under 55 won’t be so lucky as to experience such a system).

As to this new 15-member board coming between patients and their doctors, we’re a bit bewildered. Last we checked, ACA didn’t make any changes to the many corporate boards that oversee the fiscal prudence of health insurance companies who offer Medicare Part-D and Medicare Advantage Plans. In fact, we don’t even think ACA made changes to the medical review boards who oversee coverage decisions for Noem, Ryan, and every other Federal employee within the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. (Unless you count outlawing denials based on pre-existing conditions…) If Noem is referring to the Payment Advisory Board, here’s what the Kaiser Family Foundation has to say:

The Board is prohibited from submitting proposals that would ration care, increase taxes, change Medicare benefits or eligibility, increase beneficiary premiums and cost-sharing requirements, or reduce low-income subsidies under Part D.

Boy – we sure wish Kristi Noem and Paul Ryan had the same restrictions as this new Board. Yup the truth is this – Save Medicare! Fire Noem.