What do you know about Paul Ryan’s plan, I asked? “He wants to cut Medicare,” she said. She found it puzzling, though, that “he didn’t mention Medicare cuts in his Republican convention speech. He brings his own mother to show he cares about you.” That didn’t sit well with her. Still, she found Ryan’s “youth and energy appealing” and said a voucher plan was also appealing. But Rieger is 90 percent sure she will not vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket. Although she is a Democrat, Rieger says she votes for the best candidate. “But any more, it comes down to the lesser of two evils. Romney doesn’t represent the common man,” she believes.
What does she like about Obama? “He has a lot of good ideas and four years isn’t enough time to implement them. He more likely understands the average citizen. He comes from a more working man’s background.”
Ron Sampson, a retired schoolteacher, was killing some time at the festival. He lives 40 miles north of Scranton, in Montrose, Pa., a rural area where he taught high school government and American history classes. His state pension and Social Security give him a monthly income of about $3,900. His wife works as a nurse in Florida, and he says he is a snowbird in the winter. Sampson is 68 and on Medicare, with a Medigap policy from AARP. We talked about which supplement he has, and whether he knew that the health reform law makes people who have two particular Medigap policies, Plans F and C, pay more out of pocket for their care.
How did he feel about having more skin in the game—that is paying more out-of-pocket and getting less coverage from his insurance. “I’d love to review what’s coming. I don’t trust the alternative to what we have now.” Then he said: “No voucher. I don’t believe in that. I don’t trust the voucher. How are they going to protect the poor and the elderly? They are the most vulnerable.” He told me most people in the town where he lived voted Republican, and “they hated Obama from the start. As soon as someone says ‘scrap Obamacare,’ they applaud.”
Sampson said his grandmother first got him interested in the Democratic Party, but he almost voted for John McCain last time. “As soon as Sarah Palin came in, I changed my mind.” What will swing your vote this time? “What has soured me,” he said, “is the Republicans’ lack of flexibility. ‘Let’s get Obama.’ They keep saying ‘no, no we have to cut this stuff.’” Sampson said he had seen ‘Mr. No Tax Pledge, Grover Norquist,’ on TV that morning. “That really got me started,” he said. “I hope the younger people realize what they are going to face.” Sampson will vote for Obama.
Carol and Karyl
Carol, from Susquehanna, PA, a town of about 43,000, and her friend, Karyl, were not eager to give their last names, and at first they didn’t want to talk. But after a few minutes it was obvious that both women—both on Social Security and Medicare—actually welcomed the chance to talk about these programs and the nation’s politics. Carol, who was a homemaker and stay-at-home mom, receives a Social Security benefit that is one-half of what her late husband got.
She has other income from savings and investments. Still, she is worried about Medicare and knows what it meant to her family during her husband’s serious illness. “They say changes are not going to affect people 55 and older. But then there’s the other side of the coin,” she said. “You can’t believe anyone.”
Carol had heard the argument about Obama cutting Medicare. “They took money from old Medicare and put it toward the new program,” she said. She also understood the arguments for reducing reimbursements to sellers of Medicare Advantage plans. “It is very wasteful,” she told me. “But why do they let a program like that exist?” she asked. A good question!