Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GOP Less Unified, Social Security Payments in Jeopardy, More Medicare Heat for President Obama

As we could have expected, the debt limit talks have become more ominous and more serious as the real deadline for a solution nears.  As President Obama negotiates with the Conservative Republicans, his own base is disagreeing with him on the possibility of Medicare cuts.  Here's a brief summary.  Stay tuned as the week continues.

Republicans Showing Differences

"Washington’s political mood darkened dramatically Tuesday, as the debt ceiling crisis showed signs of spinning out of control and Republicans began looking for an escape path from the default showdown they helped create."  The Republicans do not trust the President, but their own leaders -- Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Eric Cantor, and Rep. John Boehner -- are having their differences, too. 

Might Social Security Checks Be Delayed?

"Add one more terrifying item to the what-happens-if-we-default list: No Social Security checks.  That’s precisely what President Obama predicted Tuesday when new CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley asked him if he could guarantee that retirees and the disabled would get a huge batch of Social Security checks due to go out Aug. 3 -- the day after the country’s debt limit is reached."

One guesses that the President is being realistic by saying this, although the Treasury has some discretion to decide which payments would be a priority.  So, as we run out of money, who do we pay first -- retirees or Chinese?  Which choice is better or worse for the economy and the country.  Ultimately, we all have to agree that the debt as a whole needs to be addressed.  Not just the ceiling.

Presidential Woes

A sampling of the resistance from Democrats to the possible cuts to Medicare:

And in more bad political news for the President, Rep. Jerry Nadler On Obama's Medicare Proposal: 'There Won't Be Any Democratic Votes For That'.  Democrats are balking at the President's suggestions about Medicare and Social Security.  "'There won't be any Democratic votes for that,' Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) told The Huffington Post when asked about a bill that raised Medicare's eligibility age.  'There will be almost no Democratic votes for anything like that under any circumstances.  Medicare and Social Security, as Nancy [Pelosi] said, are not on this table.  We may lose some other programs ... but we're not going to use Medicare or Social Security in any way to impact the deficit.'"

"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] said Tuesday that for entitlement cuts, it’s go big on a deal or forget it.  'I will not touch Medicare and Medicaid for some simple little deal,' he told reporters.  Reid said he’d only consider changes to the programs if the deal were large and included tax increases."  Reid wants real concessions from Conservative Republicans for any deal to involve Medicare or Medicaid.

Columnist Miles Mogulescu is worried that President Obama is offering too much in terms of cuts to Medicare and Social Security.  "With Republicans drawing more lines in the sand against closing a single tax loophole, Obama responded in his Monday press conference by offering up even bigger concessions on key Democratic values, specifically putting cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table."  He has sharp words for President Obama.

And providers are now adding their voices to the debate.  "A new government proposal would cut reimbursement rates for doctors who accept Medicare by 30 percent in 2012.  And hundreds of billions of dollars in reductions in both Medicare and Medicaid are on the table now as the Obama administration and Republicans negotiate over the budget.  The potential cuts are raising concerns for the more than 100 million Americans who rely on the programs, as well as the doctors who treat them."

Another Reform Suggestion

"Democrats and Republicans may not be able to agree on whether to increase taxes as part of a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling.  But they can at least agree on this much: Congress must restrain Medicare spending.  The trick is how to do it without sacrificing access to necessary care?  As luck would have it, we have a home-grown model for Medicare reform that would contain spending and improve the quality of care.  This model appeals to both Republican and Democratic ideals: it satisfies the Republican desire for individual ownership and control, but emulates a social insurance program revered by Democrats.  The key to improving health care for seniors is … to make Medicare look more like Social Security."  Read the opinion from Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute:  A Medicare Reform Model Everyone Can Love.


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