Individual constituents, without the backing of a well-funded movement organization or cable network, continue to harass Republican House members who voted for the Paul Ryan budget at town hall meetings. This has reached a critical mass level, which if they were hyped by an aforementioned cable network you would know.
Here’s just a sampling. Rick Berg (R-ND):
“I would like to know: Did you vote to eliminate Medicare as it is today?” a man asks Berg during his library appearance in an exchange caught on video by PlainsDaily.com.
“No,” Berg says, before the audience contradicts him [...]
“I want you to tell me how much it’s going to cost us when we’re 65 years old after you give us a voucher,” [a woman] says.
“Fifty-five or over, absolutely no change, absolutely no change, in this Medicare program,” Berg promises.
“As long as you are over 55,” the woman responds. “If you’re 54, to hell with those people.”
(This is another sign that the exemption for seniors 55 and over is just not going over well with anyone.)
People at the town hall were much less sympathetic to Gosar’s vote in favor of the House budget bill that would significantly transform Medicare. It’s a risky vote in a state like Arizona, where retirees known as “snowbirds” flock to the desert sun, and vote in high numbers.
“I’m horrified by the plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system,” says retiree Susan Cosentino. “I think it will just send the seniors into poverty.”
Cosentino was one of about a hundred or so people at the town hall in Sedona. Most were seniors. Another, Anne Leap, also works with retirees. She runs a small business connecting them with services they need to live independently.
She says “Seniors at the lower end are so frightened by all this, and seniors at the upper end are just outraged. It’s a scary time for us.”
Schilling denied to one questioner that the program includes a voucher system, and in response to another, he said an inflation factor is built in to the program to cover premium costs.
According to Ryan’s website for the plan “Path to Prosperity,” “it creates a Medicare payment, initially averaging $11,000, to be used to purchase a Medicare certified plan.”
The Congressional Budget Office reports that under Ryan’s plan, seniors would pay 68 percent of their premium by 2030, compared to 25 percent of the current premium.
(So Schilling’s strategy is to just lie about the proposal.)
Herrera Beutler disagreed that the plan would create a voucher system. “It’s premium support,” she said — similar to today’s Medicare Advantage plans and the health coverage members of Congress enjoy, which allow them to choose from a range of plans that fit their needs.
“Medicare Advantage is the demonstration program,” she said. “Thirty-seven percent of seniors in Southwest Washington have chosen that option. … We’ll drive down costs throughout the entire Medicare system.”
However, a 2009 report to Congress by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission found that the federal government pays private insurance companies on average 14 percent more for providing coverage to Medicare Advantage beneficiaries than it would pay for the same beneficiary in the traditional Medicare program.
When Herger told the group that those on the new plan would have the same health care plan that lawmakers in Congress have, Gary German, 58, of Redding shouted out, “You lie. That’s a lie.”
German, who identified himself as a liberal independent voter who doesn’t normally attend tea party meetings, later pressed Herger about the plan, asking why the wealthy weren’t being asked to help raise federal revenue even though their tax payments have fallen over the years.
“It seems like you’re only focusing on one half of the problem,” German said. “You’re trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors and sick people.”
(That area of California is a very conservative place, incidentally, and that was a Tea Party meeting.)
And we know about Nicole Sandler getting arrested at a town hall meeting for Allen West (R-FL). She also got maced while in prison. Lovely.
I know this won’t change many minds in the Republican caucus. What remains to be seen is whether it can change public attitudes and kick off an independent movement rooted in economic security and fairness. Maybe someday these same people can talk about the millions of people unnecessarily out of work through no fault of their own, too.