The CBO report was not lost on Woodruff’s colleagues at other news outlets, many of whom better served their audiences. Janet Adamy of The Wall Street Journal reported that Ryan’s proposal would give seniors an $8,000 voucher, on average, to buy a policy from a private company in 2022. They would have to pay the rest—whatever the going rate for insurance is ten or twenty years from now. Dean Baker, posting on the site of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, calculated what those out-of-pocket expenses might mean. Using CBO assumptions about inflation, he estimated that the voucher would grow to almost $10,000 in twenty years and that the cost of a Medicare type plan for someone age sixty-five would be around $30,500, leaving consumers to pay the difference—around $21,000.
Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News led led her story with the CBO news, while Rick Zaldivar at the AP delivered a comprehensive piece that explicitly said there would be a “cost shift to future retirees.” That parallels what’s happening for people under age sixty-five. Zaldivar also made two crucial points, reporting that the CBO said that private plans would cost more than traditional Medicare because of higher administrative costs and that the federal voucher would grow more slowly than health care cost inflation leaving a bigger gap for beneficiaries to pay.
Stephanie Condon, Washington correspondent for CBS Interactive, picked up another point—the Republicans’ Medicare bait and switch. During the fall elections the GOP successfully targeted key Democrats with ads accusing them of cutting Medicare benefits for seniors, which in turn scared the bejesus out of them. The health law reduced payments to health care providers but did not cut benefits to seniors, a point lost during the election noise. Condon remembered all that. It’s Ryan’s plan that will actually cut benefits for seniors over time, an irony for journos to bookmark.
Correction: This article initially reported that a typical sixty-five-year-old today pays 25 percent of his or her medical expenses. Actually, he or she pays 39 percent. The article has been corrected; CJR regrets the error.