The future of Medicare is a much-debated topic in Washington right now – and one that the 50+ demographic, which includes millions of caregivers and their elderly parents, are intensely concerned about. Their highly-charged emotions could sway the 2012 election, political analysts say. Nearly half of Americans who turn out to vote at election time are over the age of 50. "They're intensely interested in health care, they turn out in droves for town hall meetings, they're vocal - and they vote," says a political reporter for the Associated Press.
Medicare is the largest single bill payer in the $2.5 trillion U.S. health care system, but rising health care costs and an ever-growing federal deficit have put the future of the government-funded health care program in jeopardy. With the 2012 election just 18 months away, both Republican and Democratic voters in the 50-plus electorate might turn out in even higher numbers than in the past, in an effort to make their vote count and have their voices heard regarding the future of Medicare.
There is no shortage in opinions on Medicare reform – and the two sides of the political isle differ sharply on how to fix the flailing system. President Obama says the GOP would leave frail seniors at the mercy of profit-driven insurance companies. Republicans say the president would empower unaccountable bureaucrats to ration care.
Republication vs. Democrats Plans
Although there are many nuances to each of the plans, here is an overview of each:
- Republican: The House GOP budget plan would replace Medicare with a voucher-like system. Everyone who is now 54 or younger will receive a fixed payment to purchase a private insurance plan once they hit 65 instead of having the government pay doctor and hospital bills directly.
- Democrat: President Obama wants to keep Medicare a government program but empower a panel of experts to order cuts if spending exceeds a certain target. His latest proposal would strengthen cost curbs in the new health care overhaul.
Both Sides Face Criticism
The GOP has been on the defensive with older voters since the budget plan passed the House on April 15 with the support of all but four Republicans. Since then, Republicans have faced scathing criticism in public settings from seniors on both sides of the aisle, who say they have deep concerns about turning Medicare into a program where the government subsidizes future retirees through vouchers and private insurance. In fact, the AARP has publically opposed the GOP plan, launching a cross-media advertising campaign, asking members to "join them in the fight to keep Medicare and Social Security strong, because…Congress is considering harmful cuts to both Medicare and Social Security as part of a deal to control America's debt."
The Obama camp isn't faring much better, facing deep criticism for his health care reform efforts thus far. A survey of seniors by Exchange Health, found that 61% of people over the age of 60 think the Healthcare Reform bill has weakened Medicare in the past year since it became law.
Voice Your Opinion
Will Medicare become the issue that sways voters – both caregivers and their elderly parents – towards the left or the right in the upcoming election? Only time will tell.
Join the discussion now: Will Medicare and health care reform be the deciding factor in the 2012 election?
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