Rush Limbaugh continued to praise vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan today, touting Ryan's claim that his Medicare proposal creates a program identical to what members of Congress and federal employees enjoy. Limbaugh even cited a New York Times analysis to try to support the comparison -- but Limbaugh apparently didn't read the analysis, since it actually debunks Ryan's claim.
In a 2011 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Paul Ryan wrote that under his Medicare proposal, "new Medicare beneficiaries will be enrolled in the same kind of health-care program that members of Congress enjoy." When a caller on Limbaugh's program today brought up the comparison, the host agreed with Ryan's claim.
Limbaugh then pointed to a New York Times article by economist Uwe Reinhardt, saying: "Now, the New York Times story -- I just had to quick scan it. They try to nit-pick what they say are differences, but it looks pretty much like Ryan's plan is very close to, if not identical, to what Congress has."
Actually, the Times analysis found exactly the opposite: Ryan's proposal and Congress' current plans have a "huge difference."
For Congress and federal employees, the amount the employer -- the federal government -- contributes to health care plans rises annually in accordance with the rise in average premiums charged by insurers. In contrast, Ryan's proposal would peg government's contributions for Medicare beneficiaries to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Because the CPI has grown much more slowly than the cost of health care premiums over the past few decades, the difference looks like this:
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman further clarifies:
[W]hile it's true that both systems would involve having the government provide a voucher that helps pay for private insurance, it kind of matters how big the voucher is. The federal employees benefit plan rises in value in step with private insurance premiums; Ryan wants Medicare vouchers to grow only at the rate of inflation.
Reinhardt notes that the effect of this difference is to "shift an ever-larger share of the total health spending on Medicare beneficiaries from the books of government to the household budgets of these beneficiaries."
This is not the first time this week Limbaugh has made it clear that he has little understanding of Ryan's Medicare proposal. He has repeatedly asserted that "no one over the age of 55 will be affected in any way" by Ryan's proposed changes.
In fact, Ryan's Medicare plan would affect all seniors. Under his proposal, a gap in Medicare coverage for prescription medicine, corrected by the Affordable Care Act, would be reopened, potentially costing seniors thousands more in drug costs. Ryan's plan could also raise premiums for some, which could eventually threaten "Medicare's long-term viability," as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found.