Jeb Bush suggests phasing out Medicare

Jeb “Apple Watch” Bush told a gathering of conservatives at an Americans for Prosperity event last night that he thinks the country should phase out Medicare, ending the program for those who aren’t already receiving benefits.

Said Bush:

I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something — because they’re not going to have anything.

This puts the supposedly “moderate” Bush to the right of Republicans’ most rabid budget hawks when it comes to the social safety net. When Rep. Paul Ryan proposed a budget that privatized much of the program, Democratic claims that Republicans wanted to “end Medicare” were dubbed the “Lie of the Year” by PolitFact; they weren’t ending the program, they were just radically changing it.

Well, now we know. Republicans want to end Medicare. Not just “as we know it,” but completely.

Bush justified his claim by arguing, as is always argued when Republicans attack Medicare, that the program is on its way to insolvency. That would be true if Bush got his way and we replaced Obamacare with Apple Watches, but as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones pointed out, current projections show Medicare spending reaching about half the proportion of GDP that it was projected to in 2005, falling from 13 percent to 6 percent.

There are a lot of caveats in the numbers. As Drum noted, projecting Medicare costs is a bit more difficult than projecting Social Security costs because there are more variables:

Social Security is basically just arithmetic. We know how many people are going to retire, we know how long they’re going to live, and we know how much we’re going to pay them. Do the math and you know how much the program will cost us. It can change a bit over time, as projections of things like GDP growth or immigration rates change, but that happens at the speed of molasses. There are very few surprises with Social Security.

Medicare has all that, but it also has one more thing: the actual cost of medical care. And that’s little more than an educated guess when you start projecting more than a decade ahead. Will costs skyrocket as expensive new therapies multiply? Or will costs plummet after someone invents self-sustaining nanobots that get injected at birth and keep us healthy forever at virtually no cost? I don’t know. No one knows.

In any case, given the best information we have available, Medicare looks to be in much better shape now than it did ten years ago.

A lot of that has to do with the Affordable Care Act. The law cut Medicare Advantage, the part of Medicare that had been privatized under George Bush and was (unsurprisingly) costing the government more per-plan than the public version of the program. Remember back in 2010 when Republicans were attacking President Obama for cutting Medicare? That was what they meant. And, of course, the Ryan budget being drafted and circulated around that time included bigger cuts to more crucial parts of the program.

Congress also recently repealed the “doc fix,” which will produce additional savings in the program by restructuring its payment mechanism to doctors.

At the end of the day, as MSNBC’s Steve Benen put it, “Before ‘Obamacare’ was passed, Medicare was projected to face a serious fiscal shortfall in 2017. As of yesterday, Medicare trustees now believe the system is fiscally secure through 2030.”

So sure, if Jeb Bush has his way and returns us to the health insurance regime in place while his brother was president, Medicare would all of a sudden look much less viable. But to claim that the program is on the verge of bankruptcy today, warranting its elimination, is simply not true.

What’s more, Bush claims that “people understand” the need to eliminate Medicare. This, too, is false. No matter how many times Republicans say that the public’s on their side, the polling data simply doesn’t support them; roughly eighty percent of seniors say that the program is working well. In that same poll, 76 percent of Republicans agreed that the deficit can be cut to appropriate levels without touching Medicare.

So chalk this up to the latest installment of Jeb Bush couching extreme — even by Republican standards — policies in a soft tone and calling it moderation. He’s planted a flag way out in right field on an issue where there is a clear national consensus against him, and planted it on dubious empirical grounds.

As Benen wrote, “It says something important about Republican politics in 2015 when the most mainstream candidate is also the candidate who wants to scrap Medicare altogether.”


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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35 Responses to “Jeb Bush suggests phasing out Medicare”

  1. DoverBill says:

    And I thought he was the only sane one (until Kasich announced) in the pack.

    Looks like his only chance now (as with the rest of the nut-jobs) is to pick a fight with The Donald

    Then they can all fight over who is speaking the illest of a fellow Republican.

  2. Mary Curry says:

    I have a chronic illness (diabetes). Even with ins I STILL pay over $250 a month for meds and equipment such as test strips and needles. It would cost over $1000 a month without ins. Or I could stop taking meds and die.

  3. Tom Tallis says:

    Can we phase out the Bush Crime Family?

  4. Butch1 says:

    That was one of his few mistakes in office that I regret; giving back Prescott’s money was another.

  5. Butch1 says:

    Perhaps you should marry into the Bush family and your worries will be over. ;-)

  6. Butch1 says:

    This man is truly dangerous; what next, Social Security? I think it’s time we tell these 1% er’s to mind their own business when it comes to Medical Insurance and our protections. Just because THEY can afford to pay for their own expenses out of pocket and not notice it doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t break the bank for the rest of us. He has been living in a rich man’s bubble for too long and thinks we all can afford to pay our way just like he can. He really has a lot of nerve saying something like this.

    If the republican “enabler’s” want to lose their Medicare and support this fool then it really tells me where this country is headed. I certainly hope there are more people who are sane and will keep this charlatan out of office and where the rest of the Bush family is; unemployed.

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Bingo! great minds……………..

  8. 2karmanot says:

    Traitorous corporatism runs in the Bush Family like poisoned blood. Jebba takes after his grandfather and Babs, of course, who makes ‘Metropolis’ look like a family vacation album.

  9. 2karmanot says:

    There will come a time, certainly after I’m gone, when revolution ceases to be a computer game and violence not a fantasy meme.

  10. Doug105 says:

    Bill_Perdue • an hour ago

    He’s just following up on what Obama already began. “WASHINGTON — In his new budget, President Obama proposed on Monday to squeeze $399 billion over the next 10 years out of Medicare, Medicaid and other programs run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Under the proposals, many Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay more for their care and coverage. The president would, for example, introduce a co-payment for new Medicare beneficiaries who receive home health care services, and he would collect $4 billion over 10 years by imposing a surcharge on premiums for new beneficiaries who buy generous private insurance to supplement Medicare. … Nancy LeaMond, an executive vice president of AARP, the lobby for older Americans, welcomed a proposal by Mr. Obama to hold down the cost of prescription drugs. But she said, “We have concerns about certain proposals that could shift costs onto older Americans, such as higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments for Medicare beneficiaries.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02

    Jeb and Obama and Democrats and Republicans agree on the goal but differ on timing and tactics.
    There is no such thing as a lesser evil and given the fact that the US is not a democracy makes all the election hype seem a bit hysterical and pointless.
    Democrat and Republican candidates are paid tools of the rich. They always lie about that. Each pretends to be a genuine ‘lesser evil’ who has the best interests of working people in mind.
    That includes HRH HRC and BS and all the Republican candidates.
    As paid tools everything they say is aimed at getting them elected and cannot be taken any more seriously than the utterances of people selling used cars or gadgets on TV.

    Bill_Perdue • 19 hours ago

    Democrat and Republican candidates are paid tools of the rich. They always lie about that. Each pretends to be a genuine ‘lesser evil’ who has the best interests of working people in mind.

    That includes HRH HRC and BS and all the Republican candidates.

    As paid tools everything they say is aimed at getting them elected and cannot be taken any more seriously than the utterances of people selling used cars or gadgets on TV.

    Bill_Perdue ComradeRutherford • 7 days ago

    The same is true for all Democrat and Republican candidates.

    Bill_Perdue • 10 days ago

    Like all Democrats and Republicans Walker really bends his knee exclusively for Wall Street. What he really cares about, just like the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama is their endorsement or their money.

    nicho Jon Green 2 days ago

    You’re right. The US version is a charade. People have the illusion of democracy. North Korea is more straightforward.

  11. 2karmanot says:

    Without it I would be dead by now. The problem in my area is that doctors are beginning to refuse Medicare and MediCal, so that more advanced care is out of reach and many of us are dying on the vine.

  12. nicho says:

    Please provide some documentation or links to people who said both parties were exactly the same.

  13. Doug105 says:

    It’s word for word what was said over and over, nothing else.

  14. nicho says:

    No one ever said they were exactly the same. That’s a straw man. There are some differences, but on the things that matter, they serve the same master.

  15. nicho says:

    Well, then, drop out of it. Pay the $1 a month. I’m more than happy with Medicare — and so is everyone I know who is on Medicare.

  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    He’s just following up on what Obama already began. “WASHINGTON — In his new budget, President Obama proposed on Monday to squeeze $399 billion over the next 10 years out of Medicare, Medicaid and other programs run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Under the proposals, many Medicare beneficiaries would have to pay more for their care and coverage. The president would, for example, introduce a co-payment for new Medicare beneficiaries who receive home health care services, and he would collect $4 billion over 10 years by imposing a surcharge on premiums for new beneficiaries who buy generous private insurance to supplement Medicare. … Nancy LeaMond, an executive vice president of AARP, the lobby for older Americans, welcomed a proposal by Mr. Obama to hold down the cost of prescription drugs. But she said, “We have concerns about certain proposals that could shift costs onto older Americans, such as higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments for Medicare beneficiaries.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/us/politics/under-obama-budget-many-medicare-recipients-would-pay-more.html?emc=edit_th_20150203&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=25790019

    Jeb and Obama and Democrats and Republicans agree on the goal but differ on timing and tactics.

    There is no such thing as a lesser evil.

  17. Doug105 says:

    Not sure which state your in, but Florida has a program that covers cost for low income. At least right now.

  18. Houndentenor says:

    If the banksters had gotten their hands on the SS trust fund it would already have been plundered before the 2008 crash. We can’t ever let that happen.

  19. Houndentenor says:

    I’ve been paying for medicare since I turned 16 and got my first job. Fuck Bush! Who does he think is going to insure 80 year olds at rates they can afford without medicare. Fuck Bush and his whole silver spoon cokehead family.

  20. Mary Curry says:

    He pays $1 a month…I pay $160. a month. He has no copays for anything and my co-pays vary from $20 for my GP to $45 for a specialist (eye and foot, since I am a diabetic) to $65 for the ER unless they admit me for at least one night. How is my Medicare better?

  21. Mary Curry says:

    the $55 is for a Humana adv. plan and it had the lowest co-pay and best coverage. And I am 67 which means that Medicaid isn’t available for me. I make $2 more a month so I cannot get help.

  22. nicho says:

    Maybe, but you get better coverage. Much better coverage.

  23. Indigo says:

    I have that impression too. He’s babbling nonsense to appease the Right Wing. I don’t think that’ll work and besides, if he gets nominated, then dumps their program, they won’t work on his behalf.

  24. emjayay says:

    It seems to me that if Jeb! is the Republican candidate he has given a lot of popular issues to whoever is the Democrat.

  25. emjayay says:

    Have you looked into a Medicare Advantage program? If your income is low enough I suppose you could get Medicaid or your friend’s plan.

  26. Mary Curry says:

    I pay more for my medicare than most people pay for BHOCare. Basic cost is $104.50 plus I pay another $55 so my prescriptions are covered (mostly). I would not need that except I am diabetic. My friend pays $1 a month and everything including eye care and specialists are completely covered. I need to have x-rays but since they would cost another $100 I cannot afford them. I have a co-pay on everything.

  27. BeccaM says:

    Let’s see… in the last few weeks, Jeb! (“Don’t Say My Name!”) and most of his GOPer cohorts have
    – Come out in open opposition to a minimum wage increase
    – Calling for people to work lots more hours for lower pay
    – For raising the retirement age to 70 or higher
    – For privatizing Social Security
    – And now to abolish Medicare

    They’re also against guaranteed paid time off, rescinding workplace safety laws, and some have even floated the notion of repealing child labor laws. Plus of course they want to repeal the PPACA and throw tens of millions of Americans off health insurance altogether. And abolish all forms of organized labor and collective bargaining.

    So basically they want to rescind every progressive-populist advance from the Great Society all the way back to the New Deal.

    As a side note, not only are the estimates further out in terms of Social Security and Medicare funding, notice how Jeb Bush and the GOPers NEVER mention how raising or eliminating the FICA tax cap would fund both those programs in perpetuity. And quite possibly allow both programs to be expanded. Because of course Republicans now hate any program that makes the lives of ordinary people better at all.

  28. William Aldridge says:

    Little Jebbie Bush just knocked his idiot self out of the race. Maybe W gave him some political advice…..I remember Georgie wanted to privatize SS which went over like a ton of bricks. 4 years later the market and economy tanked before he could sell it. W always had our best interests at heart……sarcasm off.

  29. JaneE says:

    Needing to eliminate Medicare = need to kill grandma and grandpa when they get sick. Good luck selling that.

  30. nicho says:

    Just another offspring from the treasonous Bush family. If FDR had executed Prescott for treason back in 1934, when he should have, the country would be a lot better off. Instead he let him skate, and we’ve been paying for it ever since.

  31. Indigo says:

    I hope no one finds this announcement surprising. The Jebster was a disaster for Florida, you don’t want him anywhere near the Oval Office. Seriously. We’d have more fun with Trump.

  32. FLL says:

    In other words, Jeb feels that FDR’s New Deal was a mistake. Let’s see how that goes over.

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