Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Media Needs To Confront Medicare Distortions, GOP Continues Attacks on Health Care Reform, The Republican Safety Net

Telling the WHOLE Medicare Story

From NCPSSM:  "While Presidential candidates and Washington politicians continue to claim 'we can’t afford Social Security and Medicare', few --  if any -- want to talk about what their proposals will actually mean for millions of middle-class Americans who depend on these programs.  Columbia Journalism Review’s Trudy Lieberman wrote a memo to political journalists urging them to start asking some tough questions so that voters can understand what their plans to cut benefits will actually mean for our nation."

Thanks to NCPSSM for bringing this to everyone's attention.  READ ON.

MORE:  A Medicare Memo to Campaign Reporters -- "Dear Colleagues:  I have just returned from a reporting trip to Southeast Arkansas, where the folks I visited have very little.  They certainly don’t have good health.  Some are crippled by bad knees messed up from on-their-feet jobs.  Most have diabetes.  Some have had strokes.  They are lucky, though, that they have Medicare.  Without it, they probably would have died ages ago."

"Last week, speaking to business leaders in Detroit, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney mentioned that Medicare-eligible Americans ought to wait longer for their benefits.  The media glossed over Romney’s remarks; but I kept thinking about them as I was chatting with a woman who had one leg, amputated because of complications from diabetes.  And they stayed in my mind as I talked to another woman -- a 67-year-old who had a stroke last year, and had had to quit working as a presser for a local dry cleaner ten years ago, when she was 57.  She had a seizure, and a hot press fell on her hand.  A long scar shows how her work life ended.  She qualified for a Social Security disability check --all of $795 a month that’s been her only income ever since.  How on earth could someone like her pay for medical care if she had had to wait a few more years?"

Maybe Mr. Romney could lose a $10,000 bet with all of them (he wouldn't lose much by his standards), and that would help them out a great deal.

Republicans Criticize Health Reform

From Kaiser Health News:  "Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' appearance before the House Ways and Means Committee.  She defended the health care law and the president's fiscal 2013 budget request.  The hearing had all the hallmarks of a partisan political event."  Transcript and audio.

I can never say enough about the good work of KHN.  Good sense, unbiased, on point.  Must listening.

GOP: Safety Net, Safety Not

"Republican presidential candidates recently have found themselves battling over who cares most for the poor.  But their demonstrations of empathy sometimes collide with their plans to cut back the programs on which many of the poor depend.  After he appeared to dismiss the very poor, Mitt Romney was forced to backpedal from his politically perilous remarks.  But he and other candidates stand by bedrock conservative principles of cutting entitlement programs and government spending."

For Your Information

"A Texas doctor was accused Tuesday in the largest Medicare fraud case in US history, with federal prosecutors charging him with scamming the government with $375 million in phony billings.  Justice Department officials announced that Dr. Jacques Roy was arrested in Texas and faces life in prison as well as fines of more than $250,000 if convicted."


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Utah Medicare Experiment, A Little Health Care History

Utah Plays Politics With Medicaid, Medicare

"Disguised by the ornate language of a bill that would wrest Medicare from the federal government and put it under Utah’s control is the law of untended consequences.  The bill, SB208, would adopt the interstate Health Care Compact, which backers say would use the money far more efficiently than the feds’ Affordable Care Act.  Now, the federal government runs Medicare and the state runs Medicaid."

"However, the math doesn’t work out that way, according to the Utah Health Care Policy Project, which estimates Medicare would lose $217 million by 2014.  Add in the loss that year of about $132 million for Medicaid, and joining the compact makes no sense at all. "

Healthcare History: How the Patchwork Coverage Came To Be

"Workers swarmed through Henry J. Kaiser's Richmond, Calif., shipyard in World War II, building 747 ships for the Navy.  The war 'had siphoned off the most hardy specimens,' a newspaper reported, so Kaiser was left with many workers too young, old or infirm to be drafted.  The workers needed to be in good health to be effective on the job, and Kaiser offered them care from doctors in company clinics and at company hospitals.  The workers paid 50 cents a week for the benefit."

"It was something new in industrial America -- a bonus offered to attract scarce labor while wages were frozen during the war."

Medicare Expansion Riled Affluent Seniors in 1988

"President Reagan, the great apostle of modern conservatism, persuaded a Democratic Congress in 1988 to enact the biggest expansion of Medicare since the program's creation in 1965.  For the first time, there would be financial protection against catastrophic illness, with a limit on out-of-pocket payments.  To avoid worsening the federal deficit, the expansion would be paid for by the people benefiting from it: the Medicare beneficiaries themselves.  Poor people would pay little or nothing, and seniors making $35,000 a year or more would pay $800 a year for this new protection."

"An enthusiastic Congress delivered the legislation with huge majorities.  But affluent seniors were outraged."

For Your Information

From NSPSSM:  Chained CPI Doesn’t Cut It  "Normally we see eye to eye with the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities on Social Security and Medicare policy.  However, we respectfully disagree with their recent position that the Chained CPI formula should be used to calculate Cost of Living Adjustments for Social Security recipients as part of a larger deficit reduction package."


Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum Dis-Respects Medicare, Romney Still Against Medicare

Santorum Blasts Medicare

You must read this from NCPSSM:  Santorum Describes Social Security & Medicare Beneficiaries as Drug Addicts Needing a “Dime Bag”  --  "As we have said before, it’s long past time that primary voters start asking Presidential candidates very specific questions about their plans for Social Security and Medicare.  So far, voters have been treated to a lot of Orwellian double-speak offered by candidates who say 'reform' when they mean 'cut' and 'preserve' when they mean 'privatize.'”

"While GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has made his views on Social Security and Medicare clearer than most -- he wants to slash both -- we found a video this week that offers a terrifying view of what Santorum really thinks about America’s seniors, the disabled, survivors and their families.  He sees them as nothing more than drug addicts."

This is perhaps one of the worst assaults against American values that you'll ever see.  Medicare and Social Security are not addicting; they are pre-paid public benefits.  We can't help but ask how someone becomes so misguided.  Maybe the most conservative of Republicans are simply paranoid who see sinister motives behind every government program , or maybe they are home grown terrorists.

Desperate Romney Attacks Medicare

OPINION:  "Now that the Republican candidates have agreed on setting back women's health care to the 1950s, Mitt Romney is breaking out of the pack by announcing he'd raise the eligibility age for Medicare.  All the Republican candidates want to eliminate Medicare as we know it and replace it with vouchers for inadequate private insurance.  But now Romney, in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, kicked it up a notch:  He wants people to wait a few more years before they can get GOP's lousy coverage."

"The GOP plan eliminates the Medicare guarantee of affordable coverage and shifts thousands of dollars in medical costs to seniors.  In the first year alone, seniors would be responsible for $6,400 in added out-of-pocket costs."

MORE:  "Romney said his proposals for Medicare and Social Security would begin in 2022, meaning no current or near-retirees would be affected. He also said he favors adjustments to curtail the growth of future benefits for the relatively well-to-do, so 'lower-income seniors would receive the most generous benefits.'"

It's discouraging to see candidates for the office of President make all kinds of ignorant claims about Medicare.  Where's the leadership?  Where's the interest in helping Americans understand their government?  Unfortunately, it's the politics of election or re-election (the craving for power, whether one's own for others who are driving the system) that gets in the way.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, February 24, 2012

NCPSSM Critiques Budget, Romney Vouchers, Who Uses Government Programs

Budget Proposal Lacking for Medicare

From NCPSSM:  "On February 13, 2012, President Obama submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget to the Congress.  This budget proposes a total spending level of $3.8 trillion in FY 2013, and includes $3.2 trillion in budget reductions during this period that require some tough choices.  While we are pleased that there is nothing in this budget that reduces or targets Social Security beneficiaries or the Social Security program, we are disappointed that it recommends further shifting health care costs to current and future Medicare beneficiaries."

"The National Committee opposes proposals in the President's budget which would shift additional costs to Medicare beneficiaries.  Over half of Medicare beneficiaries have incomes below $22,500 per year, and they are already paying 27 percent of the average Social Security check for Part B and D cost-sharing in addition to paying for health services not covered by Medicare.  Medicare beneficiaries with annual incomes over $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples are paying higher income-related premiums.  We are troubled by the Administration's view that people will make wiser choices about using health care services if they have to pay more of the cost . Rather, we believe it is likely that these additional costs could lead many seniors to forego necessary care, which, in turn, could lead to more serious health conditions and higher costs down the road."

This is an advocacy organization that works hard for the aged and disabled to protect their rights and their pre-paid public benefits.  You should support them, too.

Romney: Vouchers for Medicare

"The Detroit Economic Club was supposed to be the venue for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to detail his economic plan.  But Romney released his 'Restore America's Promise' plan Wednesday in Arizona, calling for tax cuts for individuals and corporations, changes to Social Security and Medicare and eliminating the inheritance and Alternative Minimum taxes.  His campaign said he released it early so he could talk about it at Wednesday night's debate."

Among the points:  "Create a voucher system so future senior citizens have the option to buy private insurance instead of using Medicare."

"Options" sound good, but they're not good if the choice is of no benefit or actually harms citizens or the Country.

What People (Don't) Know

"Finally, Cornell University's Suzanne Mettler points out that many beneficiaries of government programs seem confused about their own place in the system.  She tells us that 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and 40 percent of those on Medicare say that they 'have not used a government program.'"

"Presumably, then, voters imagine that pledges to slash government spending mean cutting programs for the idle poor, not things they themselves count on.  And this is a confusion politicians deliberately encourage.  For example, when Romney responded to the new Obama budget, he condemned Obama for not taking on entitlement spending -- and, in the very next breath, attacked him for cutting Medicare."

Very interesting.  An article that you should read, because it will help you think a little about how perceptions operate in the political world.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Doc Fix Follow Up, Medicare for All

Very quiet.  Very quiet, indeed.

About the Doc Fix

OPINION:  "One item included in the recently-passed bill by Congress to extend the reduced Social Security payroll tax was the annual measure to temporarily prevent a reduction in Medicare payments to doctors; this year set at 27%.  This action, referred to as 'Doc Fix' is required because Congress refuses to find and implement a permanent solution to Medicare reimbursement rates.  Congress cannot continue to take this band-aid approach.  Unless a permanent fix is implemented we won’t have to worry about Medicare.  Doctors will not accept Medicare patients."

Medicare for All

OPINION:  "Various Republicans are pressing the U.S. Supreme Court to rule the 2010 Affordable Care Act unconstitutional because it requires millions of 'working poor' Americans to buy health insurance from commercial carriers.  Surprisingly, a crusading liberal Charleston reformer and activist has joined a Supreme Court brief demanding exactly the same thing."

"... she says, the nation should have a government-run 'single-payer' universal plan providing treatment for every citizen, as other advanced democracies do.  Simply expanding Medicare to cover all ages would achieve it.  That would extend coverage to 50 million left-out Americans, and save billions now wasted on the bureaucracy of competing private insurers."


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Romney On Medicare, Medicare Elections in 2012, Supreme Court Decision

Coming Soon: How Romney Will Protect Medicare

"Mitt Romney, facing a tough fight before Michigan's Feb. 28 primary, said he'll further outline his plan to lower taxes, reduce spending and protect Medicare and Social Security in Detroit this week.  Speaking before more than 400 people at a snowy campaign stop in Shelby Township, Romney said he'll offer more specifics on his vision in the coming days, including at his scheduled address to the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field Friday.  The message: 'We know what it takes to get Washington to work, so that America works, so that Michigan works.'"

Medicare Politics On Parade

"Don't look now, but the 2012 election is turning into a national referendum on what to do about Medicare.  Democrats want to run on the issue -- and to charge that Republican proposals to change Medicare into a voucher-based system would end the current guarantee of virtually unlimited healthcare for the elderly.  The chairman of their House campaign committee, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., has told candidates to stress three issues: 'Medicare, Medicare and Medicare.'"

"At least some Republicans -- such as Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., author of a leading GOP Medicare proposal -- say they welcome that fight.  'Medicare is the issue,' Ryan told reporters last week.  Ryan believes Republicans can only lose if they play defense and allow Democrats to 'scare seniors.'  Instead, he argues that if the party spells out its ideas clearly, it can win a mandate to transform Medicare from a government-run plan to one run mostly by insurance companies."

It's the same old arguments.  And, health insurance companies already have too much power and make too much profit.  This simply hands more of both over to a bloated, well-politically-connected industry.

Health Care Reform Law

"The Supreme Court is poised to rule this summer on the constitutionality of the health care reform law’s requirement that Americans buy insurance or pay a tax penalty.  But it has the legal option to delay a decision until at least 2014, and although the possibility has received little attention, new evidence suggests that justices are considering it more strongly.  The temporary escape hatch involves the Anti-Injunction Act, an age-old law that says courts may not halt a tax that isn’t yet being collected.  (Under the Affordable Care Act, it won’t be collected until 2014.)  Although the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals last fall tossed out a lawsuit against the mandate on this basis, most courts have decreed that the statute doesn’t apply here."

"But further evidence that justices may disagree came Tuesday, when the Supreme Court increased the time for next month’s oral arguments from 5.5 hours to 6 hours, allotting an extra half hour to discuss the application of the Anti-Injunction Act.  That means there will be a full hour and a half to discuss whether the court has the authority to rule on the health law this year."

For Your Information


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

GOP Still Out to Get Medicare, Cantor Can't ... Explain

Medicare Attacks

"Republicans may be backing off their famously toxic plan by Paul Ryan to privatize Medicare, but they’ve doubled down on the broader concept and are taking strategic steps to get there over time.  Democrats currently have the upper hand in their battle to protect traditional Medicare for the future, but unless they thwart the GOP’s drumbeat and build support for their alternate vision, it may not be for long."

"Republicans want to turn Medicare into a subsidized private insurance structure and cut costs on the beneficiary side. This concept -- dubbed 'premium support' by backers and 'vouchers' by critics -- would end the coverage guarantee and give seniors a fixed amount to shop for insurance on a private exchange.  If the subsidy is too small, tough luck; they’re on their own."

Remember, it's a long range strategy.  They won't give up until they are soundly defeated.

Cantor Speaks

"During an appearance on Fox News Sunday this morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) couldn’t explain why the public rejects large parts of the Republican legislative agenda and instead blamed Democrats for opposing it.  Asked why a recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed that 67 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on millionaires to reduce the deficit, and that 80 percent oppose cutting Medicare, Cantor could only say, 'It is unfair that these individuals who want a better life and want more jobs and higher pay are not getting it.'"



Monday, February 20, 2012

How To Destroy Medicare, Yes - It Passed, Social Security Cut, Supreme Court & Health Reform

Necessary to Kill It to Save It

"There's a new "Medicare" proposal -- sorta.  It's really the same old bait-and-switch we've seen a dozen times.  Still, you gotta hand it to 'em: Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and Richard Burr have taken the usual right-wing think-tank-designed buzzwords, deceptive packaging, and sleights of hand to new heights.  These foundation-forged assaults on the middle class may be old, battered ideas that have been debunked a dozen times, but still they just won't die.  Like the old Terminators, they keep coming back with the same mission: Must. Kill. Medicare."  "Here are ten deceptions in the Coburn/Burr plan -- plus a bonus: your "Free-Market Death Panel" explained."

MUST READING.  And, please, if you are a resident of Oklahoma or North Carolina, please write to ypur Senator and tell him you disapprove.

Trifecta:  "Is it enough to turn Medicare into a privatized, voucher plan?  No? What if you add on means testing?  Still not enough?  Then throw in raising the eligibility age, and you've got a new proposal to 'save' Medicare from Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Richard Burr (R-NC)."

This is arguably the worst idea since the Ryan plan.  Seems like the Conservative Republicans can't get enough of abusing the elderly and disable who are beneficiaries of Medicare.  Please, get a real issue.  Why are you beating up on them?  Pick on someone your own size.

Payroll "Tax Cut"

"Quick on the heels of the House, the Senate has passed legislation to extend a two percent payroll tax cut through the end of the year.  The final vote was 60-36 with 30 Rs and 6 Ds bucking their leaders to oppose the package.  It now goes off to a jubilant White House for President Obama’s signature.  The legislation, which also extends emergency unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursement rates until January 1, 2013."

See related item below from the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

The Social Security Piggy Bank

From NCPSSM:  "First off, Congress has predictably chosen politics over policy and extended the payroll tax cut.  It’s no secret … there is no such thing as a temporary tax cut in Washington.  Once the diversion of Social Security payroll taxes was renamed a ‘middle class tax cut’, election year politics for both parties killed any hope of reversing this flawed stimulus approach.  America’s seniors, disabled, survivors, and their families are fearful, and rightfully so, of Washington using their Social Security contributions as the nation’s piggy bank, and they will demand that Congress let this latest extension expire at the end of the year."

Supreme Court and the Health Law

From Kaiser Health News:

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, February 17, 2012

Doc Fix Done, GOP Medicare "Overhaul"

Doc Fixed

"Lawmakers signed off on the final details of the bill to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits Thursday, likely clearing the way for the $152 billion measure to pass before Congress takes a break next week.  The final obstacle was getting enough senators to sign the compromise bill worked out by a House and Senate conference committee.  Three Republican senators refused to sign on ...."

"The bill would also prevent a cut to doctors' fees in Medicare.  That portion costs $22 billion, and also had to be off-set with cuts elsewhere.  The extension of the 2 percent payroll tax cut -- which costs $100 billion and is worth about $1,000 to an average family -- will be added to the deficit."

DETAILS:  "TPM has obtained a detailed summary of the payroll tax cut deal, prepared by House GOP.  ...  The deal caps off lengthy negotiations that achieved a breakthrough this week after House Republicans agreed to extend the payroll tax cut without offsets. Unemployment insurance and the Medicare 'doc fix' will be paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the budget."

ALMOST DIDN'T HAPPEN:  "The House and Senate have cut a deal to extend the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and Medicare physician reimbursement rates.  But it almost didn’t happen.  And the near miss is exposing a rift between House GOP leaders and their Senate counterparts."

Medicare As We Knew It

"Two Republican senators unveiled a Medicare overhaul Thursday that features an accelerated transition to private health insurance for many seniors, a gradual increase in the eligibility age, and higher premiums for middle-class and upper-income retirees.  Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina say they're not out to win a political popularity contest. Instead, they want to engage fellow policymakers and the public in a 'grown-up' conversation about the scope of changes needed to preserve Medicare in some form for future generations."

"'All of us in Congress are running around fixing everything except our biggest problem,' Coburn said in an interview. 'If you don't start fixing Medicare now, you can't save it.'  The plan to be announced Thursday is unlikely to advance in Congress during an election year, but it will help define the debate for presidential and congressional candidates."

How can this make sense?  Even worse than the Ryan plan to dismantle/repeal Medicare.

For Your Information


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Public Supports Medicare, Social Security Promise Quilt, Changes to Affordable Care Act

Survey Says: Americans Supports Medicare

"As the debate over the federal budget resumes, a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll shows that most Americans are concerned about growing dependency on federal entitlements, but still resist major spending cuts in programs benefiting the poor and the elderly."

". . . the survey found Americans unconvinced that safety-net programs represent a major source of the deficit problem.  . . .  Given that diagnosis, it is perhaps not surprising that relatively few respondents said they would support major reductions in safety-net programs to reduce the deficit.  Fully three-fourths of those polled said Social Security should be cut 'not at all' to reduce the deficit, and exactly four-fifths said the same about Medicare."

Some new insights here; you should give this a careful reading.

The Promise of Social Security

From NCPSSM:  "One of our biggest pet peeves is the ongoing attempt by so many in Washington to use intergenerational warfare to try and convince younger Americans their parents and grandparents are nothing more than 'greedy geezers' bankrupting this nation.  While poll after poll show that argument has not gained the traction its purveyors had hoped for, it’s still an all too common political propaganda tool used by politicians whose real goal is to destroy Social Security and Medicare under the guise of deficit reduction.  This, in spite of the fact that future generations could need these programs even more, as their incomes have faltered and they’re almost as likely to see a dinosaur as they are a pension."

Read more and share your story.

GOP Makes Gains

"While Democrats will claim victory in the impending deal to extend the payroll tax cut through 2012, Republicans have also won some fodder for their base on a key issue: They’ve managed to slice off a piece of the health care reform law -- albeit a fairly small piece.  A summary of the deal circulated to allies and insiders by the House GOP leadership boasts that they’ve extracted concessions worth $11.6 billion from the Affordable Care Act in negotiations with Democrats.  The cuts hit the prevention fund and provider reimbursements -- it’s not a big chunk of the nearly $1 trillion law, but it’s a salient political win for Republicans after Democrats repeatedly resisted efforts to cut the ACA in the Super Committee and December deal."

For Your Information


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Candidates Court Seniors, Payroll Tax/Medicare Doc Fix, MRC on the Budget

Medicare on Their Minds

From Kaiser Health News:  "When GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told conservative activists on Friday that he wants to 'save' Medicare by turning it into a program that would give seniors a defined sum -- and no more -- to shop for the health plan of their choice, he teed up an issue that has the potential to sway millions of voters, especially seniors, in November.  Three days later, President Barack Obama repeated his own pledge to preserve the program, proposing as part of his 2013 budget plan to reduce spending growth by about $300 billion over 10 years, but keep intact its guaranteed, specified benefits.  'What I will not support are efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher,' the president wrote in his budget."

Insight, again, from Kaiser Health News.  Must reading for helpful facts and election contrasts.

Doc Fix Update

"House Democrats will support a GOP bill to extend the expiring payroll tax cut through the end of the year, when Republicans bring it to a vote later this week.  That basically puts to rest any remaining doubts that the provision will expire at the end of the month.  Now the fight is on between the parties over whether and how to renew two other expiring provisions -- extended unemployment benefits, and Medicare physician reimbursement rates (the 'doc fix') -- before March.  And the balance of power in this battle is much less clear."

"When the payroll tax cut was at stake, Democrats unquestionably enjoyed the upper hand.  But with that issue likely resolved, Democrats are trying to keep as much heat as they can on the GOP not to play games with UI or the doc fix -- provisions which together cost $60 billion.  The problem for Dems is that UI and the doc fix -- while extremely important to seniors, doctors and the unemployed -- carry less political valence than the payroll tax cut."

Medicare in the Budget

From the Medicare Rights Center:  "The President’s inclusion of provisions that raise revenues demonstrates a real commitment to a balanced approach, one that will better protect those with Medicare and Medicaid from more substantial cuts to these programs and therefore preserve their access to quality, affordable health care.  However, proposals that would shift greater costs onto those with Medicare, half of whom live on about 22,000 per year or less, do not appropriately target the root cause of growing costs in the Medicare program, which are growing health care costs overall."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Budget and Medicare, Payroll Tax Round 2

The President's budget proposal is the big news of the day.

President's Budget Not Favorable

From NCPSSM:  "President Obama released his 2013 budget today with predictable howls from Republicans that there should be more cuts in Medicare and Social Security to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy.  While the President’s budget projects a deficit below $1 trillion and foresees the federal shortfall declining to sustainable levels by 2017, it doesn’t overhaul Social Security or turn Medicare into 'coupon care' so for conservatives, it’s considered dead on arrival."

"We applaud the President for rejecting the loud and well-financed Washington clarion call for balancing the budget with massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  However, we do not support the President’s plan to expand Medicare means-testing.  While it may sound logical that so-called 'rich' seniors should pay more during tight budget times, the truth is that’s not what means testing will actually do."

We agree.  Read it and learn why.

FROM THE PRESIDENT:  "I am proposing more than $360 billion in reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs over 10 years.  The goal of these reforms is to make these critical programs more effective and efficient, and help make sure our health care system rewards high-quality medicine,” Obama writes.  “What it does not do -- and what I will not support -- are efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher or Medicaid into a block grant.  Doing so would weaken both programs and break the promise that we have made to American seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families -- a promise I am committed to keeping."

He is doing his best to make his proposals different from the Conservative Republicans, and still give himself room to make changes that he might think are needed.

Payroll Tax Extension and Medicare

"After a few hours of thought, Democrats have decided the GOP’s blink on the payroll tax cut is an unvarnished good, not some devious trick.  Republicans have all but agreed to renew the payroll tax cut through the end of the year without paying for it -- a huge tactical swing for them.  But they’re still insisting that the other expiring measures -- extended unemployment insurance (UI), and Medicare physician reimbursements (the 'doc fix') -- are somehow offset with cuts elsewhere."

Fox Reality-Free Zone


Monday, February 13, 2012

Medicare Budget Cuts in the Works, Romney Wants Sweeping Medicare Change

Proposed Federal Budget

"The White House will propose deep cuts and modest tax hikes Monday in a budget that aims to stick to last summer's debt deal by trimming Medicare and other programs while making the well-off pay more.  Senior administration officials said the spending blueprint would lower tax rates overall.  But it would end the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich enacted in 2001 and 2003.  It would do that by cutting tax loopholes -- or tax expenditures, as they are called -- for high earners and corporations."

"The largest cuts would come from the defense budget and Medicare.  Defense spending would be slash some $487 billion from the Department of Defense's projected budget, including savings from winding down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Health programs, primarily Medicare, would be targeted for $360 billion in savings, with most expected from cuts to providers, not beneficiaries.  Another $278 billion in cuts would come from farm subsidies, federal worker retirement and other programs."

The news media are full of related stories about the budget.  Here are two samples:

STILL MORE:  Political clashes coming over budget, payroll tax cut  "The tax break is estimated to affect about 160 million Americans, saving the average family about $1,000 a year.  In addition to the payroll tax measure, negotiators are also trying to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and prevent a scheduled cut to the reimbursement rate for doctors who treat Medicare patients, known as the 'doc fix.'"

Romney Still At It On Medicare

The story stays the same, as Mr. Romney tries to tread carefully on "sweeping changes" but won't say he'll repeal or replace Medicare -- except perhaps for "coming generations."

"Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney told a conservative audience in Washington Friday he would make sweeping changes to Medicare and Social Security.  'We’re going to have to recognize that Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable, not for the current group of retirees, but for coming generations,' Romney told the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference.  'And we can’t afford to avoid these entitlement challenges any longer.'"

"Romney said: 'We are going to slowly and gradually raise the retirement age for Social Security' from the current 66 for full benefits.  'And we’ll slow the growth rate in benefits for higher-income retirees.'  As for Medicare, 'tomorrow’s seniors should have the freedom to choose between Medicare and a range of private plans,' Romney said to applause.  'And if these future seniors want a more expensive plan, then they will have to pay the additional cost.'"

For Your Information


Friday, February 10, 2012

Conservative Media Attack Medicare, Will Medicare Be There, Medicare Demos Fall Flat

Bogus Heritage Report

From Media Matters:  "Yesterday Heritage released an 'Index of Dependence on Government' report.  Fox and others in the conservative media trumpeted the report.  But even a quick look at Heritage's report reveals its true intent: a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit important government programs such as Social Security and Medicare.  The report suggests that times were better when, rather than relying on a government-provided social safety net, Americans of limited means had to hope for 'support provided by families, churches, and other civil society groups.'"

Give this a must read.  An imaginary "think tank" creates its own rules and perspectives and tries to wrap serious academic language around its extreme views to give them a veneer of seriousness and standing.  NOT!

Future of Medicare

As Debate Continues over the Future of Medicare, Survey Reveals Seniors' Q42011 Confidence in Medicare Declined to 62% from Previous Quarter High of 73%.  "A survey of 337 retirees on Medicare revealed that 62% of respondents are 'somewhat' or 'very' confident that Medicare will be there for the rest of their lives.  These results compare with a confidence level of 73% when the same question was asked of seniors in a survey conducted in October 2011, and 69% and 57% when the same question was asked in surveys conducted in August and July, respectively."

Looks like the continuing attacks by Conservative Republicans are taking a  toll on people's belief that Medicare as we know it will continue to be available.  This creates an environment of fear where changes purported to be positive (and actually are not) are easier to put forward -- especially when the issues and implementation are complex.

If (respectable-sounding) vouchers ever passed, the Conservative Republicans then will begin to call them "Medicare-stamps," like Food Stamps, in an effort to tarnish them.  Meanwhile, Food Stamps are good for poor people, and they're good for hard-working farmers.

No Cost Savings for Medicare

"The influential Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently issued a disheartening report showing that 10 Medicare demonstration projects designed to reduce health care costs were largely ineffective.  The results were surely discouraging, but perhaps not entirely surprising.  The report looked at six demonstrations focused on disease management and care coordination, and four focused on payment reform, in Medicare's fee-for-service program."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Boehner Medicare Doc Non-Fix, Santorum's Own Medicare Fraud Connection

One of those quiet days, but a few things worth mentioning.

Boehner Not In Control

"How out of House Speaker John Boehner's control is his caucus?  Enough to block a permanent solution to a problem that has vexed the health care industry, senior citizens and Congress for a decade and a half.  The so-called Medicare 'doc fix' is a perennial headache for Medicare providers, patients and Congress.  It's included in the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extension bill congressional negotiators are now trying to hammer out."

"The House GOP seems pretty intent on making as many enemies as they can in their effort to avoid giving President Obama a win.  They'll happily see the middle class tax break go away.  They're fine with the fact that the American Hospital Association has essentially declared war on them over obstruction on the 'doc fix.'  They also don't particularly care that thousands, potentially tens of thousands, of seniors could lose access to care if health care providers stop taking Medicare patients because of the huge cut they face."

Santorum Was Director, Has Medicare Past

"The company whose employees gave the most money to Santorum’s campaign -- $19,500 -- was the hospital chain Universal Health Services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets blog.  Santorum was a director of the organization, which Bloomberg reported was sued by the federal government in 2010 over allegations of Medicare fraud."

The Really Real Conservative-Liberal Reality-Free Zone


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Medicare Wars: Part 2, Payroll Tax & Medicare

Ryan Still Pursues Victory Over Medicare

"It’s shaping up to be spring 2011 redux.  Just under a year ago, Republicans -- euphoric after a midterm election landslide, and overzealous in their interpretation of their mandate -- passed a budget that called for phasing out Medicare over the coming years and replacing it with a subsidized private insurance system for newly eligible seniors."

"The backlash was ugly.  But Republicans seem to have forgotten how poisonous that vote really was, and remains … because they’re poised to do it again.  This time they’re signaling they’ll move ahead, with a modified plan -- one that, though less radical, would still fundamentally remake and roll back one of the country’s most popular and enduring safety net programs."

Republicans Debate Medicare and Tax Cut

"Top Democrats are openly calling into doubt the chances that Congressional negotiators will reach an agreement to renew the payroll tax cut before it expires at the end of the month.  The culprit, they say, is a deep schism within the Republican conference over whether the tax holiday is a good policy or just a political gimmick to help President Obama win re-election."

"For now, the hardliners are winning.  And the result is a growing public fight over how to pay for the nearly $200 billion package -- which would both renew the payroll tax cut, extend emergency unemployment benefits, and prevent an automatic cut to Medicare physician reimbursements.  The battle comes as the GOP renews its demands of reforming the unemployment program to allow states to impose restrictions like drug testing on beneficiaries."

MORE:  House and Senate at Impasse on Medicare Payments  "House and Senate negotiators are deadlocked over how to prevent a deep cut in Medicare payments to doctors who treat millions of Medicare beneficiaries, an impasse that could threaten broader legislation on a payroll tax cut."

For Your Information


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ryan-Wyden, Chrysler Super Bowl Ad, 60 Plus Wrong Again

Ryan: Still Against Medicare

"Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) remains convinced that ending Medicare is the right policy solution, politics be damned. He's got the misguided assistance of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), an assist that's not likely to convince many comers from the other side of the aisle, or even less Randian Republicans in the House.  The Ryan-Wyden plan the House budget chairman is pushing has been roundly rejected by the White House and by House and Senate Democrats.  It's a non-starter for them, made even more so by the fact that Mitt Romney has embraced it.  Wyden's going to be in a Democratic wilderness on that one.  Yet, Ryan is undeterred."

Do You Believe It?

"Chrysler's two-minute Super Bowl ad narrated by Clint Eastwood has become politicized.  'It's halftime.  Both teams are in their locker room discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half,' says Eastwood in his singular voice.  'It's halftime in America, too.  People are out of work and they're hurting and they're all wondering what they're going to do to make a comeback and we're all scared because this isn't a game.  The people of Detroit know a little something about this,' Eastwood says in the ad, before touting Detroit's comeback."

BUT . . .  "Former Bush White House senior adviser Karl Rove blasted the ad Monday on Fox News.  'I was, frankly, offended by it,' he said."

An inspirational ad promoting American values.  How can Republicans claim it favors President Obama, unless the Republicans have a problem with those values?  It seems silly.  Let the ad roll; let us enjoy it.  Making something out of nothing just draws attention to how afraid the GOP is of any possible advantage their opponents might have no matter how slight.

60+ Calls AARP 'Major Obstacle'

The pro-GOP 60 Plus Association has posted its statement that "AARP Remains Major Obstacle to Fixing Medicare."  They're simply following the orders of Republican leaders, but it's inflammatory and insulting when their Chairman says. "Grandma WILL go over the cliff, with an AARP sticker on her wheelchair."  As I said on Friday, "AARP is just doing its job to protect older people who rely on Medicare, and the GOP is just doing its job to protect the most wealthy who rely on the GOP."

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Monday, February 6, 2012

Romney and Medicare Facts, AARP Advocates for Medicare, Dems Still Pushing Their Advantage With Medicare

Real (Not Romney) Medicare Facts: More About 2012 Elections

"In the new Republican-controlled House of Representative in 2011, House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) advanced a controversial federal budget plan which included a major restructuring of the Medicare program to change the program from largely fee-for-service to premium support/vouchers.  This proposal drew widespread praise and condemnation, and mountains of attention.  Less noticed was the part of the Ryan budget plan which repealed most of the ACA, with one huge and unnoticed exception -- the $449 billion in Medicare reductions, documented in the CBO report on the Ryan plan."

"If, in the coming fall elections, Republicans hold onto control of the House, win the Senate, and win the White House, it is clear how they will try  to repeal the ACA.  They will repeal all the access expansions for private insurance and Medicaid scheduled to take effect in January 2014; they will repeal all the tax increases on higher income, on insurance and drug companies, to pay for those expansions; and they will leave in place the $449B in Medicare reductions that they used to such great effect against Democrats.  That way they can repeal the law using the budget reconciliation process because such a move would reduce the federal deficit.  Never mind that hospitals, home health agencies, and others supported the $449B reductions only because they would be helped by the insurance coverage increases the Republicans will be sure to repeal."

Thus, the savings that Republicans tried to portray as cuts would not be restored anyway, in fact reducing Medicare financing.  Clearly, older people are the targets of those who want their votes, and it's more and more difficult to keep the truth straight.  However, it's more than clear that there is AN ALL OUT WAR to dismantle Medicare.  Looks like senior organizations and healthcare providers will become very good friends this year.

AARP Keeps Fighting

"A groundswell of opposition from AARP members helped persuade Congress not to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits in 2011 as part of federal debt reduction efforts.  Having lost faith in politicians’ ability to solve their problems, 50+ Americans took matters into their own hands -- sending 7 million emails, phone calls, letters and petitions to Congress through AARP’s Protect Seniors initiative."

On A Medicare Roll for 2012

"The Democratic representative charged with taking back the House says the election will be about one issue -- Medicare -- and his party 'is in a much better place than anyone thought we would be' to put Nancy Pelosi back in the speaker's chair.  'This is going to be razor sharp,' Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said on C-Span's Newsmakers, airing on Sunday. 'We are ahead in the generic polls ...  it is a good indicator and right now we are up in every single generic ballot.'"

Really nothing new here, but we need to note that the drum beat will continue until November.


Friday, February 3, 2012

AARP Accused, Fear Factor, Gingrich: Use South American Model for Social Security

AARP Not Serious

"The nation's largest seniors' lobby is not seriously at the table in the debate over Medicare, Republican lawmakers said Thursday.  While ostensibly opening a dialogue about how to address Medicare's financial woes, Republicans from both the House and Senate implicitly criticized AARP for its opposition to several Medicare proposals."

"'Unfortunately, as long as politicians obscure the Medicare program's prognosis for political benefit and stakeholders like AARP fail to publicly challenge these political calculations by educating their membership on the structural financing challenges facing the program, a national conversation about how best to save the Medicare program will not move forward,' the letter states.  AARP opposes privatizing Medicare, as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).  It has also come out against proposals that would make seniors foot the bill for a larger share of their Medicare benefits."

AARP is just doing its job to protect older people who rely on Medicare, and the GOP is just doing its job to protect the most wealthy who rely on the GOP.

Scaring the Voters

"The top contenders in the U.S. presidential race seem to have a simple plan for the gaping budget deficit: use it to strike fear into the hearts of voters.  Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama is such a big spender that he would trigger a Greece-style crisis if re-elected in November.  Democrat Obama says Republican candidates would balance the budget by slashing social programs older Americans rely on to pay their medical bills.  Polls suggest both approaches resonate with voters."

Gingrich and Private Income Security

"Newt Gingrich doesn't shy away from taking dramatic policy positions.  But he doesn't always stick with them.  For instance, he no longer supports limiting carbon emissions through a system of cap and trade permits.  Nor is his proposal to execute anyone convicted of bringing two ounces of pot into the U.S. being featured in his presidential run (The Drug Importer Death Penalty Act of 1996).  His support of other big ideas, such as privatizing Social Security, is more enduring and particularly deserving of scrutiny.  When the topic of Social Security comes up, Gingrich has proposed the U.S. follow the Chilean model of pension reform."

For Your Information

"The election is still more than nine months away, but it's already clear that in the race for the White House, 'we the people' are running far behind 'we the one percent.'  Financial reports filed and released late Tuesday by the Federal Election Commission indicate that America's next president will take office deeply in debt to a relative handful of wealthy Americans and special interest groups, who will want something in return for their generous support."