Bob Frenier, the Republican candidate for the Vermont Senate from Orange County, has caused a stir in the Northeast Kingdom with his Burma Shave-type signs suggesting that Gov. Peter Shumlin's single payer initiative would degrade the benefits now available to seniors under Medicare.
In fact, that would be impossible: the federal government will not grant a waiver to a state or region to manage Medicare if there is any reduction in true federal level of benefits. Which makes total sense. Any move to reduce Medicare benefits would be political suicide for anyone contemplating it.
The only way that Shumlin could affect the current level of benefits would be to improve it. That could be done by reducing or eliminating the amount that Vermont seniors pay to get supplemental insurance coverage for their share of an episode of medical treatment. The buzzword for that is "Medicare wraparound", which is under discussion by the Shumlin design team. According to Robin Lunge, a top Shumlin aide, the wraparound would be complex, but a decision on the issue will be contained in the plan that Shumlin brings into the legislature in early 2015.
The idea that Shumlin could or would want to degrade Medicare benefits is simply ridiculous. There are too many real, very difficult issues to wrestle with when contemplating health care reform to waste time dealing with phony issues like Frenier's, whatever you think about Burma Shave.