In his New York Times column today Paul Krugman presents a strikingly clear explanation of the difference between the Democratic and Republican approaches to health care – a distinction between Republican “Vouchercare” and Democratic “Medicare”
Here’s how Krugman explains it:
Medicare is a government-run insurance system that directly pays health-care providers. Vouchercare would cut checks to insurance companies instead. Specifically, the program would pay a fixed amount toward private health insurance — higher for the poor, lower for the rich, but not varying at all with the actual level of premiums. If you couldn’t afford a policy adequate for your needs, even with the voucher, that would be your problem.
And most seniors wouldn’t be able to afford adequate coverage. A Congressional Budget Office analysis found that to get coverage equivalent to what they have now, older Americans would have to pay vastly more out of pocket under the Paul Ryan plan than they would if Medicare as we know it was preserved.
Republicans have desperately tried to deny that the Ryan plan would transform Medicare into a radically different voucher system. They say instead that it would create a “new, sustainable version of Medicare”
I’ll just quote the blogger Duncan Black, who summarizes this as saying that “when we replace the Marines with a pizza, we’ll call the pizza the Marines.” The point is that you can name the new program Medicare, but it’s an entirely different program.
The mainstream media, with their characteristic tendency to define editorial “balance” as a point exactly midway between fact and bullshit, dutifully report the Republican spin that if they call their program “new improved Medicare” then the press has an obligation to describe it that way. The Republicans even went so far as to try to block an advertisement that attacked them for planning to “end Medicare” on the grounds that it was unfair to let anyone criticize the program using anything other than their preferred words.
The attempt to block the advertisement indicates how threatened the Republicans feel by the popular reaction to their proposal. There is no doubt they will pour tens of millions of dollars into ads pushing the “new, improved Medicare” spin and hope that that, along with their admirable message discipline, can simply smother the chorus of criticism their plan has unleashed.
Krugman’s devastatingly simple and accurate distinction between “Vouchercare” and “Medicare” provides Democrats with an extraordinarily powerful way to cut through the spin and keep the debate clearly focused on the basic issue.
Dems should use the terms “Republican Vouchercare” and “Democratic Medicare” at every possible opportunity and in every single discussion. This is a case where the most relentless message discipline will not only be extremely effective but fundamentally truthful as well.
“Republican Vouchercare” vs. “Democratic Medicare” – clear, powerful, accurate and compelling. Repeat it until the Republicans start pulling out their hair.