The threat to Medicare

Older Americans who supported Trump will suffer most under plan to privatize the program

Among the many lies Donald Trump told on his way to the White House, none was more blatant than his oft-repeated promise not to cut Medicare and Social Security.

Seems he’s changed his tune. The president-elect’s transition website now promises “reforms” to both programs, including “modernizing” Medicare.

If this sounds vague, that’s because it is. And its vagueness plays right into the hands of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who long has wanted to privatize Medicare by killing it and replacing it with vouchers that can be used to purchase health insurance from private companies. With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the White House and, before long, the Supreme Court, now’s his chance.

Ryan will argue that Medicare is going broke, that along with Obamacare it is driving up health care costs, that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act must also entail “reforming” Medicare. None of this is true.

As Ryan’s own Congressional Budget Office has pointed out, the cost-savings measures in the ACA have been quite successful in reining in Medicare expenses, holding them to just 1.4 percent annually, less than inflation. Long-term budget projections have improved dramatically.

Remember, Medicare is inexpensive to administer. The program doesn’t have to make a profit, and it isn’t driven by the pressures of the stock market.

In the long run, the people who will be hurt most by privatizing Medicare—those who will absorb the increased cost of insurance when the government pulls back—are elderly white people, folks who by and large voted for Trump. If they don’t stand up against Ryan’s plan, they will suffer the consequences of their voting choice.