Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today's Theme: Mediscare; And, Will Democrats Have the Courage to Control Costs?

Republicans cry "Mediscare" and try to back pedal and say it isn't so, but Ryan's Plan Really Would End Medicare and replace it with something entirely different.  "Republicans couldn’t get enough of Paul Ryan and his 'bold' and 'visionary' budget plan when he unveiled it back in April.  But after the applause faded, it began to sink in that Ryan’s plan would essentially abolish Medicare, the government health insurance program for seniors.  This didn’t go over well with voters ...."  The political problems for Republicans continue as Americans see through the smoke and mirrors.

In the New York Times,  op-ed columnist Paul Krugman takes Ryan to task ("Medicare and Mediscares") noting that "Mr. Ryan may claim -- and he may even believe -- that he’s facing a backlash because his opponents are lying about his proposals.  But the reality is that the Ryan plan is turning into a political disaster for Republicans, not because the plan’s critics are lying about it, but because they’re describing it accurately."  Nicely done; the column puts recent events in perspective.

Meanwhile, although there's much talk about whether Democrats can take advantage of the Republican's Medicare blunder, some Democrats now think Medicare Puts the House in Play.  "Democrats say the House of Representatives has become much more competitive because of their success using Medicare as an issue to win the New York special election earlier this week.  'I fundamentally believe the House of Representatives is in play,' Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel told reporters Thursday, hedging by adding that he’s not yet ready to predict that Democrats will win enough seats to take control."  Hopefully, the Democrats will have some significant Medicare improvement ideas to put on the table.

It's generally understood that Republicans are better able to use (and even create) political advantages; they really know how to play hardball and how to spin.  Will the Democrats have the fire in their belly to really fight for Medicare and stand up for their purported values?  Republicans still are trying to equate budget problems with Medicare; it's a mantra.  The Democrats need to be more clear that unfair tax advantages and foreign interventions are the budget busters.  And, they need a Medicare mantra of their own.

Missed this one a few days ago, but I still can recommend it.  "Will Anybody Make the Case forMedicare Reform?"  "Yes, the Dems have succeeded in beginning to turn the political tide against the GOP by attacking their plan for Medicare, but they've done so by playing offense, not defense: Dems have raised fears about the Ryan proposal but haven't made a full-throated defense of their own Medicare reform plan -- namely the major provisions for bringing down health-care costs through the Affordable Care Act.  And, without strong defenders, some of those key changes have been under increasing threat of being weakened or dismantled."  Again, real solutions to strengthen and improve Medicare are needed.

For comments about the need to address Medicare's real problems, see "Squandering Medicare's Money" which focuses on needless procedures.  "Much has been said about the growing gap between the program’s spending and revenues -- a gap that will widen as baby boomers retire -- but little attention has been focused on a problem staring us in the face: Medicare spends a fortune each year on procedures that have no proven benefit and should not be covered."

In a less politically charged atmosphere, "relatively easy" administrative changes would be possible.  Today somehow, we have to muster the courage to address necessary improvements without yielding to the tremendous hue and cry that regressives will mount.


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