Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Republicans Debate "Medicare," The Political Power of Medicare, Boomers Increase Medicare Costs, Medicare to be Altered ... Profoundly

The Republicans have kicked off the Presidential election season with more attacks on Medicare-as-we-know-it and on health care reform in general.  "At the New Hampshire debate, candidates Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, discussed the controversial Ryan budget plan that would revamp Medicare and put forth some solutions of their own."  Watch the Video: GOP Presidential Hopefuls Debate Medicare, courtesy of Kaiser Health News.  Listen for the buzz words and watch for the spin.

Typical of any debate, there were twists and turns and -- especially -- repetitions of "facts" and "figures" that, after a while, sound true.  "The seven Republicans who took part in yesterday’s presidential debate in New Hampshire all promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering alternatives for expanding access to insurance or lowering health care costs.  Instead, the GOP fudged the facts of the law and stood by Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal to privatize the Medicare program."  Here are the "Top 6 Health Care Myths From Yesterday’s Republican Presidential Debate … In One Minute."  The video shows the false claims and the text gives the accurate information.

The budget talks are getting subtle:  Senate Dems Draw Line In Sand: No Medicare Benefit Cuts In Debt Limit Deal.  "At a Capitol press conference, Democratic Senate leaders drew a clear line: Medicare cuts can be on the table, but not Medicare benefit cuts."  Will the voters understand or will they see the Democrats as caving in and agreeing to cut Medicare?

"Just how powerful is Medicare as a political weapon?  So powerful that for the past two election cycles it's been a favorite cudgel for both Republicans and Democrats."  Thanks to the unpopularity of the Ryan budget pan to repeal Medicare, Democrats Revive Medicare As Political Weapon.  "It was Republicans, however, who got the better of the Medicare issue last year.  That's when, of all the hundreds of provisions in the massive health care overhaul law, they zeroed in on the fact that it would reduce Medicare spending by a half-trillion dollars over 10 years."  "Now Democrats are ready to turn the tables, also using Medicare as their weapon.  They're taking aim at the budget plan every House Republican voted for in April."  How powerful is Medicare?  Very.  You'd think that the Republicans would have known better than to seek its repeal.  Do they have a political escape plan?

What’s Driving up the Cost of Medicare?  Per Capita Costs Will Fall but the Number of Retiring Baby Boomers Will Not -- a report from The Center for American Progress.  "Concerns about Medicare spending are front and center in discussions of how to rein in our federal budget deficit.  That concern is understandable given Medicare’s share of the federal budget -- at 12 percent and growing.  At the same time, Medicare’s trustees predict that Medicare’s Part A trust fund, which pays primarily for hospital care, will become insolvent -- with revenues insufficient to pay full benefit -- by 2024."

The summary continues:  "Whether from a fiscal or a solvency perspective, then, these projections raise real challenges for sustaining the Medicare program.  Today 48.5 million people rely on Medicare to make quality health care affordable.  In 2035, when Medicare has absorbed the baby boom generation, beneficiaries of the program will number 85.3 million."  The report suggests that "What’s needed are measures to assure that all payers -- private and public -- are partners in payment reform -- or legislation that sets limits on systemwide health spending and holds all payers accountable for payment reforms to achieve it.  Only a systemwide partnership can effectively slow spending and secure coverage at the same time."  Once again, serious reading for those who are serious about understanding how to continue Medicare in a responsible way.

Finally, it seems that even "fact checking" Web sites can be susceptible to opinion -- "Factcheck gets it wrong again on Medicare."  "Just as they did in their article on Social Security, when they made the startling claim that Social Security adds to the deficit, the most recent article gets it wrong again regarding the GOP's plan to end Medicare, instead describing it as 'altering Medicare profoundly [emphasis added].'"  Hmmm . . . altering Medicare profoundly.  Hmmm.

To continue:  here are the Three Most Common Mistakes Made By So-Called Fact Checkers When Assessing GOP’s Medicare Plan.  MISTAKE #1: The GOP Plan Doesn't End Medicare.  MISTAKE #2: The GOP Budget Does Not Cut Benefits For Current Seniors.  MISTAKE #3: The GOP Plan Preserves Medicare For Current Seniors.  Check out the details for how these statements are mistakes.  It's really not subtle, but it does take thought.


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