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Ryan's Killer Budget Gets 95 Percent of GOP Votes in Congress--Again

March 22, 2013

Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann marked the third anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act by urging her colleagues to repeal Obamacare "before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens." Of course, as the likes of Rep. Virginia Foxx (who similarly declared the ACA would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government") and Senator Chuck Grassley (who claimed Ted Kennedy would have been denied treatment for brain cancer) her slander is nothing new for the party that brought you the "death panels" myth.
But largely overlooked in the media coverage of Rep. Bachmann latest killer lie is that the House of Representatives this week actually passed a budget with a real body count. After all, Paul Ryan's House GOP budget would leave an estimated 38 million more people without health insurance and as a result, lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths each year. Making matters worse, Ryan's privatization of Medicare dramatically shifts the health care burden to American seniors, a group whose poverty rate doubles when out-of-pocket medical costs are considered. And for the third straight year, 95 percent of all Republicans in Congress voted for all of it.

Despite the Republicans' twin defeats by American voters and the U.S. Supreme Court, Paul Ryan's GOP is nevertheless still calling for the repeal of Obamacare. Ryan's budget slashes Medicaid by 44 percent over the next decade and hands over the funds as block grants to the states. By undoing both Uncle Sam's subsidies for Americans purchasing insurance in the private health care exchanges and the Medicaid expansion increasingly supported by many Republican governors, the House GOP plan would leave an estimated 38 million more people without health coverage.
That figure is even larger than the 27 million Americans forecast to gain insurance by 2020 as a result of Obamacare. The reason is straightforward: states will continue to reduce eligibility and slash benefits for the $350 billion a year Medicaid program that currently serves 60 million Americans. As the CBO warned, state block grants that won't keep up with the growing cost of health care would invariably lead to cutbacks that "involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost sharing by beneficiaries--all of which would reduce access to care." The result, as Huffington Post recently reported:

According to one evaluation of the budget Ryan introduced last year, his block-grant plan would reduce Medicaid enrollment by half. Combined with his proposed repeal of Obamacare, that would mean 37.5 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage were Ryan's 2012 proposals made law, the Urban Institute and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation concluded last October. The Medicaid cut in Ryan's new budget plan is $54 billion smaller than the proposal analyzed in the 2012 report.

All of which means Paul Ryan's supposed "patient-centered" health care philosophy will have a real life body count. As one Harvard Medical School study revealed, an estimated 45,000 people die each year due to lack of health insurance. With the recession-swollen ranks of the uninsured nearing 50 million, Families USA last year concluded that "Across the nation, 26,100 people between the ages of 25 and 64 died prematurely due to a lack of health coverage in 2010." An earlier 2008 analysis by the Urban Institute put the still horrifying number somewhat lower:

In 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimated that 18,000 Americans died in 2000 because they were uninsured. Since then, the number of uninsured has grown. Based on the IOM's methodology and subsequent Census Bureau estimates of insurance coverage, 137,000 people died from 2000 through 2006 because they lacked health insurance, including 22,000 people in 2006.

It's no wonder that some Americans are literally, as Families USA put it, "dying for coverage."
Of course, with her call for the repeal of Obamacare, Michele Bachmann and her GOP allies would "literally" take that coverage away. And by restoring insurance companies' ability to exclude those with pre-existing conditions, to arbitrarily drop those who get sick and to impose annual and lifetime benefits caps, the Ryan budget would put countless more Americans lives in jeopardy.
Among them would be some of America's senior citizens, many of whom live just above the poverty line. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Paul Ryan's first Medicare voucher program in 2011 would have resulted in future elderly having to absorb a staggering 68 percent of premiums and out-of-pockets costs by 2030. All told, the CBO estimated, that would cost seniors on average $6,500 more a year. Just days after she along with 234 House Republicans voted for it, the very same Michele Bachmann fretted that Ryan's de facto rationing of Medicare would "an undue burden on America's seniors":

"I put an asterisk on my support, I put a blog posting up that said just as much. That is my area of concern," she said on "Fox News Sunday." "I support this bill with that proviso."
"I'm concerned about shifting the cost burden to seniors," she added.

Bachmann was so concerned that she voted for Ryan's updated "premium support" scheme for Medicare in 2012 and again in 2013. While not as draconian by maintain traditional government-run Medicare as a "public option," the CBO still forecast that new beneficiaries could pay up to $2,200 more by 2030 and up to $8,000 more by 2050.
The Ryan budget's potential carnage doesn't end there. Non-defense, discretionary spending (that is, everything outside of the Pentagon, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and servicing the national debt) would be slashed to its lowest level in over 50 years. Among the programs subject to the axe is SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) , formerly known as food stamp. Under the Ryan budget, SNAP would lose $135 billion--or 18 percent--of its funding over the next decade. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained:

If the cuts came solely from restricting eligibility, 12 million to 13 million people would need to be cut from the program. Making the cuts through across-the-board benefit cuts would result in a reduction in benefits of more than $50 per person per month in 2019 -- $1,800 for a family of three over the course of a year. If the reductions are achieved through across-the-board cuts, the maximum SNAP benefit would be set at just 73 percent of the Thrifty Food Plan, the Agriculture Department's estimate of the minimum amount a family needs to afford a bare-bones, nutritionally adequate diet.

That may not "literally" kill women, children and seniors, to borrow Bachmann's phrase. But it certainly is not conducive to good health.
While former GOP White House hopeful Michele Bachmann was warning that Obamacare could kill you dead, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had a message for his party. The GOP, he lamented, became a "caricature" of itself in 2012 because its candidates said "biologically stupid things" and issued "idiotic statements." He should know. After all, he didn't just inadvertently--and repeatedly--suggest President Obama should be executed back in 2010. Just last year, he described the $700-plus billion in Obamacare's Medicare savings this way:

"If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regards to Medicare, it's Barack Obama. He's the one destroying Medicare."

As it turns out, Paul Ryan's budget counts on those same savings to slash upper-income taxes, repeal Obamacare, ration Medicare, leave millions uninsured and push millions more below the poverty line. Now that's a killer budget. And for the third year in a row, almost every single Republican Representative and Senator voted for it.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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