Why, After Decades Of Opposition, Is The GOP Suddenly Defending Medicare

For 44 Years Medicare Has Been Their Number Two Whipping Dog

September 29, 2009

If there was ever a more glaring example that the Republicans in Congress are simply against anything the Democrats come up with, it still couldn’t compete with this health care reform debate. Republicans Killing MedicareSince the passing of Medicare in 1965 and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Republicans have demonized it and made it their number two whipping dog, right behind the welfare program, as the cause of deficits and national debt. But over the past week or so they have suddenly become the champions and defenders of Medicare.

President Obama has said over and over that he wants health care reform paid for — that it couldn’t add to the national debt over the long run. To that effort the Democrats have come up with a way to trim $400 billion off of Medicare over the next decade. The biggest single cut would come from doing away with the Medicare Advantage program that so many insurance companies are in love with. That would cut $113 billion over the next ten years. The other cuts would be similar type cuts, mostly unearned money that is going to the health care industry. And this is why the Republicans have suddenly found Medicare religion.

Lori Montgomery for The Washington Post says “it’s a lonely battle [for Republicans]. Hospital associations, AARP and other powerful interest groups that usually howl over Medicare cuts have also switched sides”. She says the Republicans position on this matter is a “role reversal” for them: In the Finance Committee, GOP senators moved repeatedly to strip the spending cuts from the bill [bold added]. She goes on to address the Medicare Advantage program that is slated to be cut in the new bill.

The Medicare Advantage program was implemented as part of the so-called Medicare reform bill in 2003 under a Republican controlled Congress and signed into law by Republican President George W. Bush. (I addressed this last year in another post.) It can only be described as a government-sponsored scam against Medicare recipients, and regulators view it as open season for preying on older adults. As benefactors of the bill, insurance companies have enjoyed a vast increase of income and, with help from the Republicans, are going to fight tooth and nail to keep it. (See who’s paying to kill health care reform)

In another article, Ceci Connolly says “medical professionals say the fundamental problem in the nation’s health-care system is the widespread misuse and overuse of tests, treatments and drugs that drive up prices, have little value to patients, and can pose serious risks [bold added]. She tells us the health care market is a $2.4 trillion system. And with that kind of money out there, benefactors of that system are not going to go quietly. Connolly also sites this report by the New England Healthcare Institute that says $850 billion per year can be saved “without reducing the quality of care”. She also reports that the Congressional Budget Office says that is “enough money to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million people”. (The NEHI report breaks down how they got to their number. Many of those numbers are very interesting, but you won’t hear about that from the biased news media or those opposed to health care reform.)

Of particular interest in Connolly’s article is a quote from Arthur Kellerman, an associate dean at the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia: “In the United States today, we give you all the care you can afford, whether or not you need it, as opposed to all the care you need, whether or not you can afford it” [bold/underline added].

Lori Montgomery reminds us of a plan under the Clinton administration that was very similar to Max Baucus’s plan:  “That’s what happened [huge savings] after the last major assault on Medicare spending, when Clinton and a Republican Congress approved a package of cuts remarkably similar to the one now on the table. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 was expected to save $112 billion over five years — a 9 percent reduction in projected spending on par with the 10 percent in the Baucus bill. The cuts wound up saving so much more than expected that [a Republican controlled] Congress reversed some of them in 1999 and 2000 [bold added].

No matter what one says in public, when they are alone, behind closed doors and in their personal thoughts, they know why the Republicans have suddenly become champions of Medicare after more than 40 years of trying to put it to death — they are trying to protect the health care industry; not Medicare recipients.


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