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Medicare enrollments forms with Social Security card.
The Republicans' rebranding effort (thinking up new ways of making the same unpopular policy ideas sound better) keep evolving when it comes to their plans to end Medicare. Originally, Paul Ryan and crew were fine calling their "reform" plan what it was: vouchers. The general population didn't like that much, so it morphed into "premium supports." Since that hasn't gone over too well, either, they've apparently settled on a new name for the same old vouchers: "competitive bidding."

Trudy Lieberman at Columbia Journalism Review explains how Republicans are dressing up the voucher idea this time.

Proposals floating around Congress these days call for privatizing Medicare via vouchers, but they don’t use the term. In general, the proposals would encourage insurance companies to bid against each other, to produce the lowest-cost policies in the private market. Customers would receive a sum of money—aka a voucher— to help defray the cost. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker introduced his “Dollar for Dollar Act,” and a good chunk of it deals with what he calls structurally transforming Medicare by “keeping fee-for-service Medicare in place, competing side-by-side with private options that seniors can choose instead. Utah Sen. Orin Hatch used the term “competitive bidding” and said allowing health plans “to compete with traditional fee-for-service Medicare” would reduce costs and preserve the quality of care. The plans would allow people to choose between these voucherized plans and traditional Medicare, preserving the notion of choice.
Foes of our social insurance programs have gotten savvy enough to realize that they can't privatize Medicare in one fell swoop, as Ryan's original budget (back before "vouchers" were a dirty word) envisioned. So in the next iteration, they employed the idea of "choice," of competition with traditional Medicare. That allows them to chip away at it, pulling away younger, healthier patients who might be able to get good private insurance deals and leaving the older, sicker, more expensive patients in traditional Medicare to sap the program more quickly and make killing it off entirely that much easier.

No matter what they call it, it's still the same idea: put more and more of the burden of paying for health care on seniors, and put that money in the pockets of private insurers.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Feb 27, 2013 at 12:01 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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