Friday, March 30, 2012

GOP Looks Back to Good Old Days: 1951 and Last Year, Ryan Under Scrutiny

Welcome to 1951, Courtesy of the Republicans

"House Republicans expect to adopt a budget resolution this week that envisions eliminating most federal debt by cutting government’s share of the economy to a level not seen since 1951, before Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency and the space program.  Federal spending as a proportion of gross domestic product would fall by one-third by 2050 to 16 percent from 24 percent in 2011, according to calculations by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. T he last time it was at that level, Harry Truman was president, and Nat King Cole ruled the pop charts."

"'You end up in a very different world than we’ve been used to in the past 50 to 60 years,' said former CBO Director Robert Reischauer.  The blueprint, written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, 'would eliminate many of the elements of government that people depend on and that people want,' Reischauer said."

Hey!  Truman supported government health care and the New Deal (mostly).  And Eisenhower, a Republican, was elected after Truman.  So, this would be a return to a pre-Republican era.

GOP Revisits Last Year's Medicare

"Brave or politically suicidal?  For the second year in a row, Republicans voted Thursday to effectively dismantle Medicare -- this time, just over seven months before a presidential election.  And Democrats are salivating at the political opportunity, eager to hang the vote around the neck of the party’s presidential nominee and its candidates in tough congressional races.  'A year ago, nobody was talking about Democrats having a shot at the House.  Now we’re talking about it,' a Democratic leadership aide told TPM after the vote, a party-line 228-191 that didn’t win a single Dem."

"The blueprint by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is similar to his controversial Medicare plan last year, in that it ends the health insurance guarantee for seniors and replaces the program with a subsidized insurance-exchange system.  Unlike last year’s plan, seniors can buy into traditional Medicare as a sort-of public option, and the vouchers it provides are more generous."

Ryan at Home

"Democrats have gone straight to Rep. Paul Ryan’s hometown to blast the Wisconsin Republican’s budget plan.  Ahead of Thursday’s anticipated vote on the spending proposal, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee purchased a billboard advertisement that reads, 'Congressman Ryan: Protecting Millionaires Instead of Medicare.'"

Affordable Care Debate

For Your Information


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mediscare from Republicans, Ryan Anti-Middle Class, Support Affordable Care, Medicare - For All

The Ryan Budget

" ... House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's budget for the coming fiscal year would have a devastating impact on the poor, elderly and disabled.  By turning Medicare into a private voucher system and Medicaid into a block grant program, along with cuts to food stamps, it paints a frightening picture of what would happen if Republicans sweep the next election.  Ryan's plan enjoys enough support to pass in the House.  In the Senate, which Republicans are likely to take over because Democrats have so many more seats up for re-election, it would only need a simple majority since budget bills can avoid being filibustered."

Scary stuff.

Ryan vs. Middle Class

"'Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.'  That's what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Fox News Sunday last September.  I would argue it makes for both rotten politics and rotten economics.  And there is no greater example of that than Chairman Ryan's own budget.  That's right ... the Ryan budget ... the one that ends Medicare but continues tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires ... is back.  It's like a bad horror movie.  So what is different this time around?  The answer is not much."

Seniors and Affordable Care

From NCPSSM:  "The Supreme Court is wrapping up three days of hearings on the Affordable Care Act today.  Seniors with the National Committee’s 'Rally Corps' joined other activists on the steps of the Court urging Justices to uphold the health care reform law.  'The truth is the more seniors get the facts about healthcare reform the more they support it.  But unfortunately all the partisan bickering surrounding the law’s passage and continuing even now, two years later, has left too many Medicare beneficiaries unaware or misinformed about all the new benefits now available to them thanks to the ACA.'"

Universal Medicare

"In fact, there's a very easy way to achieve universal coverage, and that's just by deleting two words from the Medicare law, "over 65", because Medicare is a system that provides universal coverage to everybody over the age of 65, as well as people with disabilities.  And it does so in a much less expensive way than health care.  The administrative costs for Medicare are about 2 percent.  They've been that way for decades.  And the cost of insurance overhead and their administrative fees is about 16 percent."

MORE -- from another angle:  Can Obamacare be saved?

For your Information


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Medicare Still Wildly Popular, 2012 Politics of Medicare

Another Poll Shows Medicare Support

"House Republicans are sure they have a new message strategy for their plan to gut Medicare that will make the plan not devastatingly unpopular. They even did focus group testing on it. Apparently, they didn't focus on the right group.  ...  Asked what Medicare should look like in the future, just 26 percent said it 'should be changed to a system where the government provides seniors with a fixed sum of money they could use either to purchase private health insurance or to pay the cost of remaining in the current Medicare program.'"

Past and Future Medicare

"Last spring, when House Republicans passed Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan's ambitious fiscal agenda, it would have been easy to make two basic guesses about the proposal's lasting impact: On the one hand, it seemed that the budget's focus on the immense scope of the fiscal calamity heading our way would put the deficit and debt at the center of our politics for the rest of Barack Obama's term.  But on the other hand, it looked like the Medicare proposal in the budget would be highly controversial and politically risky."

"For a time, both predictions seemed to be confirmed by events.  The Ryan budget forced President Obama essentially to retract the budget he had proposed two months earlier and replace it with a vague series of promises to address the deficit and debt.  There followed several months of budget showdowns, with Republicans setting the agenda, even if they got only a small portion of the spending cuts they sought.  Meanwhile, the Democrats were in full attack mode on Medicare, accusing Republicans of pushing old ladies off cliffs and asserting that the defense of 'Medicare as we know it' would be the centerpiece of their own election platform."

Dems Say "Hands Off Medicare"

"House Democrats want to make a clear, election-year statement: they’re not going to touch Medicare and they’re going to raise taxes on the wealthy.  Determined to set their party apart from the Republicans’ fiscal blueprint that will dominate much of the campaign season, Democrats rolled out a $3.7 trillion spending plan that they say better protects the middle class in the still-recovering economy."

Trouble Ahead for GOP?

"The GOP budget plan revealed this week by Rep. Paul Ryan may be a boon for millionaires but it is a disaster for our seniors, children, and working families.  It is also a blueprint for the Republicans' electoral defeat in 2012.  Why?  Because most Americans would strongly disagree with the Republicans that we should take Medicare away from seniors, and tell students and parents to pay more for education while extending taxpayer giveaways to millionaires, Big Oil, and corporations that ship jobs overseas."


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 Preview, Affordable Care

California Dreamin'

"The messages in the phone calls and mail pieces targeting voters in one of the Sacramento region's most competitive congressional races vary, but the subject is the same: the future of Medicare.  The national debate over the federal health care program for seniors is expected to be a top issue in elections across the country.  The efforts already are fierce in the 7th Congressional District, a high-stakes rematch between Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera."

In Court

"On opening day in the health care cases, the Supreme Court justices made clear they would not let common sense get in the way of making constitutional history."  [Transcript available]

"In a little-noticed exchange Monday, conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may have tipped his hand that he’s entertaining the possibility that the health care law’s individual mandate can be upheld on a constitutional basis that’s different from the one supporters and opponents have made central to their arguments."

"The justices appeared broadly skeptical that the law’s fine imposed on Americans who fail to carry health insurance qualifies as a 'tax.'"

Etch-A-Sketch Saga

For Your Information

"Aides to Lyndon B. Johnson, daughter Luci Baines Johnson Turpin, biographer Robert Caro and former Sens. George McGovern and Walter Mondale uniformly described the 36th president as a man who relished nothing so much as rolling up his sleeves and working with Congress to get things done.  Johnson did it to win passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, fair-housing laws and Medicare.  Indeed, in most of the Great Society measures, Republicans voted 'yea' in higher percentages than Democrats.  Despite Dem majorities in both houses, the measures mostly would have failed without GOP votes."


Monday, March 26, 2012

Ryan' Budget Makes 2012, Affordable Care on Trial

2012 Politics -- Budget & Medicare

"This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released what amounts to the most substantive roadmap for fiscal policy that any Republican is likely to offer in 2012.  Many political pundits and policy analysts, especially those on the left, are eager to dig into the details to alert the public about the potential (negative) impacts of a budget that slices off $5 trillion in total federal spending compared with the plan offered by President Obama in February."

"While most of the Republican candidates for president have signaled support for Ryan’s proposal, Governor Romney’s proposals probably track the closest, particularly in the area of Medicare reform.  This is a big deal, since it suggests that the presumptive Republican nominee will be advancing an agenda that also echoes the key policy contrast that Ryan is purposely setting up for November."

Affordable Care on Trial

"The Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act will have immense political importance.  The law, which rivals Medicare in scope, is the biggest achievement of the Obama administration.  Striking it down has become a Republican crusade.  The justices, like the rest of the country, are clearly aware of the politics of the moment.  But a decision on the merits will endure long after this election season -- it could alter the allocation of power within American government and Congress’s authority to solve national problems."  "Here is a look at the issues to be argued over three days this week in this extraordinary case."

It seems to me that most Conservative Republicans are taking it for granted that the Supreme Court will strike down Affordable Care.

For Your Information

The Barbarism of the Health-Care Repeal Crusade  --  "I’m comfortable with the market creating vastly unequal rewards of many kinds.  But to make health insurance an earned privilege is to condemn people to physical suffering or even death because they failed to secure a job that gives them health insurance, or they don’t earn enough, or they happened to contract an expensive illness, or a member of their family did."

"Final Nail In The Coffin Of This Country": Another Year Of Wild Attacks On The Health Care Law  --  "After waging an epic misinformation campaign during the debate over the Affordable Care Act and throughout the year following its signing, right-wing media have continued attacking the health care law, claiming that it is the 'final nail in the coffin of this country' and that it 'makes everyone a slave.'  As the two-year anniversary of the health care law approaches, Media Matters looks back at the right-wing media's latest attacks on health care reform."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Friday, March 23, 2012

Budget Politics, GOP Votes Out IPAB, Wyden Woes, Bipartisan GOP?

GOP Budget Bad

"A year after House Republicans misfired on their plan to overhaul Medicare, they’re going right back at it in the budget they proposed Tuesday, tweaking the details but signaling their willingness to engage in a political battle over entitlement reform -- even in an election year.  It’s the third such GOP plan in the past month to try to change Medicare, and it runs smack into the White House and congressional Democrats, who say the GOP is tangling with an issue that will cost them votes in November."

Etch-A-Sketch.  The Republicans are trying to erase or reset Medicare.

Goodbye IPAB

"The GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal a key cost-control provision of the health care law Thursday.  The House passed the largely symbolic measure by a vote of 223 to 181, repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a 15-member panel that is supposed to check Medicare costs if they rise too quickly.  The measure is primarily an election-year vehicle because it is unlikely to even be brought up in the Senate, and President Barack Obama has promised to veto it if is passed."

Wyden Under Fire

"It’s doubtful that this is what Sen. Ron Wyden had in mind when the Oregon Democrat worked with Rep. Paul Ryan to propose a plan for Medicare reform.  On Tuesday, House Republicans unveiled a federal budget blueprint that calls for transforming the tax code and balancing the budget by 2040 through deep cuts in domestic spending, including the sweeping changes to Medicare proposed by Wyden and Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the House Budget Committee."

"The plan puts Wyden in an awkward position.  Wyden’s fellow Democrats clearly do not appreciate a senior member of their party allowing Republicans to claim bipartisan support for their Medicare reform plan."

Republicans Say They're Bipartisan

"One of the new twists of this year’s Republican budget is that Republicans are trying harder to present themselves as upholding ideas that have bipartisan support, making President Obama the partisan outside the consensus.  The biggest example here is Medicare, where Paul Ryan enlisted Ron Wyden to provide him with bipartisan cover on Medicare."

For Your Information


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Targeting Seniors, Faith Leaders Blast Ryan Budget, No Grand Bargain, IPAB Facts

GOP Has Sights on Seniors

From NCPSSM:  "If America’s seniors really want to get at the heart of the ongoing political debate about our nation’s economic mess and the solutions offered to change course, yesterday provided a good snapshot of what’s at stake.  House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan has introduced the GOP/Ryan budget and as expected it envisions balancing the budget by turning Medicare into a privatized program giving seniors a voucher (designed not to keep pace with their health costs over time) to buy private insurance."

"The new twist offered this year is a promise to also keep traditional Medicare as an option.   Unfortunately, what that really means is private insurers will siphon-off younger-healthier seniors while older and sicker patients remain in traditional Medicare which will increase the programs costs, potentially limit doctor participation, and create a death spiral to the Medicare’s demise."

The Conservative Republicans want to "reset" Medicare.  They think it's just like Etch-a-Sketch -- you can give it a good shake, tip it upside down, and it goes away.  You have a blank slate upon which to create an insurer-friendly profit center called vouchers, or coupons, or even "stamps."

Believe in Helping

"That the GOP cuts vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and other safety net programs while giving tax breaks to the richest Americans is 'immoral' and 'unconscionable,' other leaders said.  'The poor are not statistics,' Rabbi Jackie Moline said.  'Whatever one thinks of Congressman Ryan’s ideas, it is unimaginable to look into the face of a child who would go hungry without government assistance and say, ‘Sorry — we need to reduce the deficit.’'"

Sorry, No Big Deal

"On Sunday, the Washington Post published a detailed story about the arduous negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner last summer, trying to use the debt ceiling crisis manufactured by Republicans to forge a 'grand bargain' on revenues and spending cuts."

"What remained on the table, the official clarified, was the notion that there could be a deal.  But instead of including the specific elements previously agreed upon by Obama and Boehner, any major deficit reduction measure considered going forward will have to more closely resemble a separate plan introduced by the president in the fall as part of his presentation to the congressional super committee charged with deficit reduction."

IPAB - About It

"It sounds like a new Apple product, but IPAB is actually a controversial board that is at the heart of House Republicans' efforts to upend the 2010 federal health law -- or at least make it a strong campaign issue.  The Independent Payment Advisory Board, created by the health law, is designed to help hold down costs in Medicare, the federal health program for seniors and the disabled. It is not yet operating."

For Your Information

 The Affordable Care Act: Before and After  (From the Medicare Rights Center)


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ryan Budget Ends Medicare

Ryan Budget Proposes Major Medicare Alteration

From The Medicare Rights Center:  "Let’s be clear, the budget introduced today by Representative Ryan is still a voucher plan that ends the Medicare program as we know it.  The budget may include a few new provisions compared to 2011, but the premise is still exactly the same -- Medicare beneficiaries (those over 65 and people with disabilities) pay more for health care and the federal government pays a lot less.  The proposal replaces Medicare’s guaranteed benefits with a 'premium support' payment that consumers can use to buy private insurance or, in a new twist, the traditional Original Medicare program.  However, there is no guarantee that the subsidy or voucher would match the rate at which health care costs increase.  This means that in order to buy adequate coverage, people with Medicare and their families will need to pay more out of pocket."

MORE:  "House Republicans thrust their vision of a smaller government, a flatter tax code and a free-market Medicare system into the 2012 election season on Tuesday, banking that fears over surging federal deficits will trump longstanding voter allegiances to popular government programs.  The House Budget Committee blueprint for spending and taxation over the next decade would reshape Medicare into a system of private insurance plans, shrink programs for the poor and turn them over to state governments, and try to simplify the tax code for individuals and businesses."

AND MORE:  "House GOP leaders unveiled a 2013 budget blueprint Tuesday that has little chance of becoming law but draws a clear contrast with Democrats on taxes, spending, and a host of hot-button political issues -- all of which could play a pivotal role in the 2012 campaign.  Republicans cast the $3.53 trillion plan -- which doubles down on past GOP proposals to overhaul Medicare and other politically sensitive programs -- as a bold attempt to reverse skyrocketing federal deficits and avert a looming fiscal catastrophe."

FROM NCPSSM:  GOP/Ryan Budget Plan Targets Seniors…Again  "CouponCare for Medicare – Tax Cuts for the Wealthy – Benefit Cuts for Everyone Else"

For Your Information


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wyden Speaks Out, Ryan On Parade, Clinton Weighs In, Voting For Medicare

"Preserving the Medicare Guarantee: Why I've Been Working with Paul Ryan"

From Senator Ron Wyden:  "I know that polls show that the majority of Americans like Medicare the way it is today.  But don't let that number confuse what's at stake: unless Congress enacts meaningful Medicare reform in the near future, seniors will be faced with inevitable cost-shifting and eventual benefit cuts until Medicare doesn't look anything like the program does today.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund will be out of money by 2022.  And as MedPac explained in its report to Congress last year, Congress's continued inability to come up with a long-term solution for Medicare's reimbursement rate for doctors 'is undermining confidence in the Medicare program.'"

"I believe the most important aspect of Medicare is not the structure of the program but the guarantee to all Americans that they will have high quality health care as they get older.  I will always fight to protect traditional Medicare, but in my mind, what makes Medicare so important is its guarantee.  It is one of our nation's most solemn promises and history has shown what can happen when it doesn't exist. "

Recommended reading.  Although I don't agree with everything he says, Sen. Wyden does a good job of explaining his thinking on this issue.

Ryan Still Pushing For End To Medicare

"It seems like only yesterday when House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin introduced a federal budget that would change Medicare as we know it.  Actually, it was a year ago when Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, offered, controversially, a federal spending blueprint that would transform Medicare from a single-payer health insurer for seniors into a program that would give them money to purchase insurance on the private market, so-called premium support."

"Undeterred, Ryan and House Republicans are expected to make public Tuesday their latest budget proposal.  And while full details aren't out, the expectation is that it will once again propose that Medicare become a premium-support program for people under a certain age."

MORE:  "When House Republicans unveil their 2012 budget on Tuesday, they are expected to include a Medicare privatization plan endorsed by one Democrat -- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). That, Republicans will claim, proves their controversial overhaul proposal has bipartisan support.  Leading Democrats say they won’t let the GOP get away with it."

President Clinton on Medicare

"Former President Bill Clinton said Saturday that the 2012 election boils down to a simple issue -- 'some version of how bad is government after all.'  He told a crowd of about 6,000 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks that Democrats have dealt with that question from Republicans for 30 years."  "Clinton said Republicans 'got away' with claiming the 2010 health care reform legislation slashed Medicare funding.  But he said the reform actually shifted funding from a Medicare program that was overly profitable for companies in order to add life to the Medicare trust fund, pay for the prescription drug program and close the so-called 'doughnut hole.'"

Older Voters

"Elections are decided by the people who show up at the polls.  In the United States, the oldest citizens are the most likely to cast their ballots, which gives them political clout beyond their numbers alone."  "Some 61 percent of citizens age 65 and older voted in the November 2010 election, the best turnout of any age group. More than half (54 percent) of those ages 55 to 64 also cast a ballot."


Monday, March 19, 2012

GOP Relentless on Disabling Medicare, Unhappy Wyden, Affordable Care Faces Test

Ryan's Own Mediscare

"In a new Internet video previewing his upcoming budget plan that aims to slash spending and overhaul the Medicare healthcare program for the elderly, Republican lawmaker Paul Ryan warns of a coming debt crisis if U.S. lawmakers fail to act.  It is part of the latest effort by Ryan, the influential chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, to project bold ideas for reining in huge budget deficits."

"But Republican strategists warn that Ryan's plan to partially privatize Medicare is fraught with political danger for the party in its bid to maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November 6 election."

This is the Republican's own version of "MEDISCARE."

MORE:  "Now Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is returning to center stage as the GOP doubles down on his conservative budget priorities -- including tax cuts for the wealthy and a new version of his plan for major changes in Medicare."

Tough Times for Wyden

"The question pings off Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden like a hailstone even now, three months after he locked arms with Wisconsin's Republican Rep. Paul Ryan on a plan to save Medicare.  Wyden is in an uncomfortable place these days.  Republicans discuss him with satisfied surprise while many Democrats bounce between incredulous and angry. "

Affordable Care At the Supreme Court

"Here's a thought that can't comfort President Barack Obama: The fate of his health care overhaul rests with four Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.  His most sweeping domestic achievement could be struck down if they stand together with Justice Clarence Thomas, another GOP appointee who is the likeliest vote against.  But the good news for Obama is that he probably needs only one of the four to side with him to win approval of the law's crucial centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone in this country has insurance or pays a penalty."

Romney Covert Attacks

OPINION:  "Question: What are the connecting threads between these two recent Mitt Romney news items -- the announcement that he's not enrolling in Medicare, and the revelation that Bain Capital helped him make money helping the Chinese government spy on its people?  Answer: They're both covert attacks on innocent civilians, and they're both based on Romney's own deceptions."

For Your Information

Keep checking 2012 Campaign Watch for updates on the candidate are getting wrong when it comes to Medicare and Social Security.  From NCPSSM.


Friday, March 16, 2012

The Ryan "Plan," Gingrich Still Talking, GOP Still Fighting Medicare, Medicare Vouchers

The Social Security & Medicare Double-Reverse

From NCPSSM:  "Kudos to the Center for American Progress for cutting through Paul Ryan’s Social Security & Medicare double-speak and putting the Budget Chairman’s relatively newfound concern for America’s poor in perspective.  Rep. Ryan has taken the 'greedy geezer' myth to new heights to bolster his claims that wealthy seniors are draining resources from the poor.  Scott Lilly with CAP exposes the many flaws in Ryan’s theory."

Definitely a must read and must click.

Newt Says Modernize Medicare

"Gingrich compared the 2012 presidential election to that of 1860, where Abraham Lincoln ran on a platform that called for technological change.  Calling for a more modern anti-fraud system in Medicare and Medicaid, Gingrich said by getting rid of a bureaucratic, paper-based system taxpayers will save billions of dollars."

GOP Continues Stealth Tactics to End Medicare

"When the Republicans release their budget next week, they'll likely say they have a 'new' Medicare proposal that will 'save' Medicare instead of eliminate it.  That's not true.  The Republicans still plan to end Medicare as we know it.  But this time they'll do so with the support of Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon."

The Results of Medicare Vouchers

"Helping younger generations is a noble sentiment, but unfortunately one reflected only in Republican speeches.  Take the recent debates on entitlement reform: The most prominent Republican plan, Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal, would retain the current system (the one that's supposedly overgenerous) for those 55 and older.  His program would then voucherize Medicare benefits for everyone else.  hese vouchers wouldn't be indexed to escalating health-care costs, and so by design the younger one is, the less one would receive."

For Your Information

"Former Congressman Billy Tauzin (R-LA) made $19,359,927 as a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies between 2006 and 2010.  Tauzin retired from Congress in 2005, shortly after leading the passage of President Bush’s prescription drug expansion.  He was recruited to lead PhRMA, a lobbying association for Pfizer, Bayer, and other top drug companies.  During the health reform debate, the former congressman helped his association block a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, a major concession that extended the policies enacted in Tauzin’s original Medicare drug-purchasing scheme.  Tauzin left PhRMA in late 2010.  He was paid over $11 million in his last year at the trade group.  Comparing Tauzin’s salary during his last year as congressman and his last year as head of PhRMA, his salary went up 7110 percent."


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mitt May Enroll in Medicare, IPAB Repeal Falters, Medicare Attack By "Senior" Group, Republicans Focus on Budget

Mitt May Find Avoiding Medicare Isn’t That Simple

As I mentioned earlier:  "Romney most likely will still be enrolled in Medicare Part A, which covers hospital services.  That piece is much harder to avoid.  But another high-profile Republican has tried to do it.  Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey joined a lawsuit with several other individuals in 2008 against the Department of Health and Human Services to force the government to allow them to un-enroll from the program."

"But the D.C. District Court of Appeals last month upheld a lower court ruling that individuals cannot 'choose' not to be covered by Medicare Part A."

GOP Losing the IPAB Fight

"IPAB repeal legislation began to hemorrhage Democratic support Monday, after Republicans said they intend to pair the broadly popular House bill with a more partisan medical malpractice reform package.  'Typical right-wing overreach,' charged Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, one of 20 Democrats to co-sponsor the Independent Payment Advisory Board repeal bill.  'I’m baffled by it.  It’s a way to destroy the chances of bipartisanship.'”

GOP Budget Fight and Medicare

"At issue is the party’s budget plan laying out its fiscal agenda for the year.  Republicans were accused last year by Democrats of plotting to end Medicare when their budget proposed overhauling the health care program for the elderly.  They probably will revive their Medicare plan this year, though with changes to reflect a compromise that Ryan has since written with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon."

60 Plus At It Again

As you know, this is probably my least favorite group ever, even including the Conservative Republicans themselves.  "Conservative groups are gearing up to spend millions of dollars in advertising this year to hammer President Obama and congressional Democrats over a little-known health care board that is at the heart of a heated debate on holding down Medicare costs.  The latest barrage began this week with a $3.5 million TV and online advertising campaign from the conservative 60 Plus Association.  The commercials target Democratic senators up for re-election this fall in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Montana and Missouri.  In the ad, singer and association spokesman Pat Boone called the Independent Payment Advisory Board a panel of 'unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats' with the power to deny Medicare treatments."

For Your Information


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Inevitable Romney, Medicare for You

Romney Won't Take Medicare -- How 1% Can You Get?

"In case anyone in America didn't know, Mitt Romney is rich.  So rich, in fact, that yesterday on his 65th birthday, he announced that he's not planning to sign up for Medicare."

"I'm not sure what Romney's trying to prove, but what his action says is clear: I'm not like the Americans who enroll in Medicare.  I'm special.  I'm rich.  I'm better than you.  Ask yourself: If Romney doesn't need or want Medicare for himself, will he protect it for the rest of us who do?  Of course not.  Instead, he'll continue to support the Republican plan to eliminate Medicare as we know it.  He'll work to turn Medicare into a voucher program that will saddle seniors with thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket health care costs.  Because, after all, what senior can't afford to spend an extra $6,400 a year on doctors and hospitals?"

Of course, Mitt can afford it!  And, maybe, that's a great campaign slogan -- Mitt can afford it!  Unfortunately, 99 percent of us can't.

Romney on the March

"There’s a view that Romney’s likely emergence as the GOP’s 2012 standard-bearer invalidates the notion that the party’s base has cracked up in the Obama era, or at least proves it’s wildly overstated.  After all, would a party driven by rabid ideologues who value purity over electability really choose a former Massachusetts governor with such suspect conservative credentials as its candidate?"

"Or there’s Romney’s support for Paul Ryan’s budget plan, which would effectively end Medicare as we now know it.  The plan is an article of faith on the right -- and a Democratic ad maker’s dream.  And his efforts to distance himself from his own Massachusetts healthcare law, which was crafted when the individual mandate was still considered a conservative idea and before the term 'ObamaCare' existed, have made it impossible for Romney to enjoy any kind of advantage on the issue over Obama in the fall."

You Still Can Sign Up for Medicare: Deadline Near

FROM MEDICARE RIGHTS CENTER:  "Consumers who are eligible for Medicare, but who have not yet enrolled in Medicare Part B, should do so before March 31, when the General Enrollment Period (GEP) ends.  Part B of Medicare covers a range of services, including doctor visits and outpatient therapy. Consumers who enroll during the GEP will have coverage effective July 1, 2012."

From Rep. Steve Israel

OPINION:  "This Republican Congress of Chronic Chaos is dusting off last year’s same failed playbook -- where seniors would lose their Medicare while Republicans give more tax breaks to millionaires and Big Oil companies.  I have one response: Bring it on."

For Your Information

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Romney Steps Up Medicare Deception, Slower Medicare Spending, Romney Doesn't Want Medicare, GOP Prep for 2012

Who Me?  Romney Accuse President of Attacking Medicare

"As part of an effort to reverse the public’s perception of the parties’ positions on Medicare, Mitt Romney’s campaign is appropriating a common Democratic attack and using it against President Obama.  To wit, it’s Obama, not Romney and the GOP, who plans to 'end Medicare as we know it.'"

"There are multiple, and conflicting, facets to this claim, all of which are intended to obscure one fundamental fact -- the GOP broadly supports a plan that, over years, will phase out traditional Medicare, and replace it with a subsidized private (or private-public) insurance system for seniors; President Obama supports, and has signed into law, efforts to make the existing single-payer Medicare plan more cost-effective in order to avoid 'ending Medicare as we know it.'"

Well worth the time to read this article in full.  Conservative Republicans recognize that they already have waited years for the opportunity to destroy Medicare.  At this point in time, they're ready to be patient and wait a few more years.

Good News About Medicare Spending, Bad News For Republicans

"Talking Points Memo has a good post on the New England Journal of Medicine’s new report on slowing the cost growth in Medicare spending. NEJM asks, 'Slower Growth in Medicare Spending -- Is This the New Normal?'  'On the whole, we do not believe that the recent slowdown in Medicare spending growth is a fluke,' wrote the researchers ...."

MORE:  How The Affordable Care Act Could Quash The GOP’s Dream Of Medicare Privatization  "What if 'Obamacare' not only helped save Medicare from fiscal doom, but also quashed the GOP’s longstanding goal of privatizing the program?  It’s too early to know what will ultimately happen, but new evidence suggests that nightmare scenario for conservatives is within the realm of possibility."

Romney Refuses Medicare

For Your Information

"Watching with growing unease as the GOP presidential nomination fight promises to stretch into the spring, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are making moves to protect their own re-election prospects in the fall.  The aim is to fashion a political and legislative agenda to sharpen the party's case against President Barack Obama and Democrats, and make a coherent argument for why the Democratic-controlled Senate, and not the GOP-led House, is to blame for the congressional gridlock that has disheartened the public.  A side benefit is that the legislative strategy might shift public attention away from some of the social issues that have recently dominated their party's presidential contest."

Just a little look to the 2012 future.

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Monday, March 12, 2012

Docs Take on Payment Changes, Bipartisan Medicare Reform

How To Pay Physicians

"A new independent panel, made up mostly of doctors, will tackle the thorny issue of physician pay, but it won't be dealing with the sustainable growth rate issue.  The Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) announced Monday that it's launching the National Commission on Physician Payment Reform to assess physician payment issues and to develop recommendations on how to reform the doctor payment system while keeping costs in check and improving patient care."

"Unlike the bipartisan debt reduction committee that recently agreed to the bill that delays the impending 27% cut in Medicare pay rates for 10 months, the National Commission on Physician Payment Reform won't delve into the SGR or budget issues, such as how to pay for payment and delivery system reform.  'We're talking about how doctors get paid, not how Congress solves its budget issues,' Schroeder said."

Taking the politics out (mostly), but keeping the special interests of providers in.

Prospects for Medicare Agreement

MISSED THIS LAST WEEK, BUT STILL OF INTEREST:  "Before Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced their 'Bipartisan Options for the Future' on December 15, 2011, the notion that Democrats and Republicans agreed about certain aspects of Medicare might have seemed unthinkable.  But the pairing of a liberal Democrat who has long worked on health care reforms and a fiscally conservative Republican primarily known for work on budget issues suggests that it might be possible for the parties to reach a compromise on Medicare reform."

"Of course, meaningful reform is not likely to occur in 2012: any significant reform probably won't happen until the public sends a clearer signal about the kinds of change it will tolerate, which won't be possible until after the fall elections.  Yet some Republicans and Democrats appear to be in substantial agreement about some changes that might make Medicare more efficient, effective, and fiscally sustainable -- even if none of these changes are universally accepted by either party as desirable or even tolerable."

Perspectives that are worth reading and understanding.


Friday, March 9, 2012

GOP and Traditional Medicare, GOP Still Negotiating

Can GOP Deliver On Its Promise To Preserve Traditional Medicare?

From Kaiser Health News:  "House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's promise to preserve traditional Medicare, which is likely to appear in his soon-to-be unveiled budget plan, could have big implications for Republican presidential and congressional candidates in November.  That pledge -- to allow future beneficiaries to remain in the government-run program that allows them to choose their own doctors and pay a percentage of the costs -- was part of a proposal to overhaul Medicare that the Wisconsin Republican put forward in December with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore."

"Proponents see the new proposal as more politically palatable than last year's House budget that would have eliminated traditional Medicare, and which may have cost the GOP a congressional seat in New York.  But some critics argue the overhaul would change the current program so fundamentally that it might no longer be a desirable -- or affordable -- option."

Republican Renegotiation

"Conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are not satisfied with spending caps mandated by last year's debt limit deal and are seeking deeper cuts -- even if this raises the risk of another government shutdown fight.  Republican aides said on Wednesday some members of the House Budget Committee are pressing for a budget resolution that holds discretionary spending at least $97 billion below the $1.047 trillion cap set by the Budget Control Act for fiscal 2013.  Members of the Republican Study Committee, a staunchly conservative wing of the party that includes many lawmakers backed by the Tea Party movement, are advocating $931 billion in discretionary spending, although some have suggested a compromise figure of $950 billion."

MORE:  "Less than a year after reaching a budget agreement with President Barack Obama, House GOP leaders now seem likely to walk away from it under pressure from tea party-backed conservatives eager to show voters they're serious about shrinking the government."

STILL MORE:  "Signs mounted Thursday that House Republican leaders, under pressure from their conservative members, will submit a budget that calls for cutting federal programs beneath the levels they agreed to in the bipartisan August debt limit.  Democrats warned that violating the agreement could spark a government shutdown fight later this year."

For Your Information


Thursday, March 8, 2012

IPAB in Trouble, Tax Plans and Medicare Cuts, Utah GOP Attacks Medicare

House Votes to End IPAB (as we know it)

"The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved legislation that would repeal implementation of an advisory board created to recommend cuts to Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled.  Under the 2010 health-care overhaul, the Independent Payment Advisory Board could draft reductions to Medicare payments for doctors, hospitals and other providers without congressional approval.  The board would have 15 members selected by the president and confirmed by the Senate; none have been named to the panel. "

GOP Candidates Would Tax the 99% and Reduce Medicare

"All four of the candidates left vying for the GOP nomination -- Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum -- have tax plans that would slash taxes below their current modern lows.  These tax cuts would cost the federal government trillions of dollars in revenue over the next decade, forcing deep and severe cuts to government services and likely undermining Social Security and Medicare."

"Each of these plans would have significant consequences, both by reducing tax rates and cutting the resources available to programs and services like Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, and public health and safety."

Utah Dems Support Medicare

"Utah Democrats delivered a message Tuesday about the many 'message bills' that Republican legislators are running this election year to attack the federal government and the Obama administration.  'Enough is enough,' House Minority Leader David Litvack, D-Salt Lake City, said in a news conference.  House Democratic Assistant Whip Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, complained that message bills take 'time and the energy and the resources of the state Legislature … and divert them away from productive activity and into an attack on the federal government and an attack on the Obama administration.'"


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

IPAB Vote Soon, Romney's Health Reform

All eyes are on Super Tuesday ... and no one's thinking about Medicare ... except us.

House Moves Closer To IPAB Repeal Vote

From Kaiser Health News:  "KHN's Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about the latest movement in House Republican efforts to repeal a key part of the health reform law -- the Independent Payment Advisory Board.  One House committee passed a repeal of IPAB Tuesday while another held a hearing on it.  The full House is expected to vote on a repeal of IPAB as early as the end of March."

"House Republicans are moving towards bringing a bill to the floor to repeal IPAB -- the Independent Payment Advisory Board created in the health reform law.  Board members would be responsible for reducing Medicare spending if that spending exceeds a target growth rate and Congress does not take action on its own."

Health Care Reform Remains Lightning Rod for Romney

"As the hours until voters head to the polls ticked away, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's health care law became a leading topic of discussion again with voters and among his political opponents.  At a town-hall-style rally here Monday, Mary Toepfer, 40, an adjunct college professor from Warren, Ohio, and a Romney supporter, asked him to explain the difference between the health care law Romney signed and the Obama administration's law so she could rebut people who doubt Romney's conservative credentials."


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Republicans So Sad On Medicare, Affordable Care Knowledge, Wyden-Ryan A Good Thing?, Green Party and Medicare

GOP Medicare Woes

FOLLOW UP:  "The Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll has some worrisome news for the remaining four Republican presidential contenders, not the least of which is its finding that 53 percent of all Republicans don’t want Medicare messed with.  As the survey put it, they want Medicare 'as it is today, with the government guaranteeing seniors health insurance and making sure that everyone gets the same defined set of benefits.'"

"That leaves all the GOP candidates out of sync with most Republicans on Medicare.  Add Democrats to the equation -- just as they’ll be after the primary season -- and the numbers are stunningly lopsided, with about 70 percent of Americans saying they favor the Medicare program as it exists today."

Patients Aware

"Patients Aware is a national network of doctors, nurses, and caregivers who provide information directly to seniors about the Affordable Care Act.  Many seniors are still not aware of the new benefits provided in the Affordable Care Act such as free preventive care services, closing the Part D prescription drug donut hole and incentives for providers and hospitals to keep patients healthy and independent."

The Good of Wyden-Ryan

OPINION:  "An honest debate over Medicare’s future may be too much to hope for in an election year.  But candidates should think twice before staking out positions that could tie their hands in next year’s unavoidable showdown over public debts and Medicare spending.  After all, 50 percent will win and actually have to govern.  That’s why it’s a big mistake to allow the leading bipartisan proposal for Medicare reform -- the Wyden-Ryan plan -- to fall victim to election-year Medagoguery."

"It’s the brainchild of Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, a progressive Medicare champion who once led a Gray Panthers chapter in Oregon, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the Budget Committee and darling of tea party conservatives.  If this political odd couple can agree on a balanced way to slow the unsustainable growth of Medicare costs, there may be hope for real entitlement reform yet."

Not Easy Being Green

"Twenty-five million new jobs; Medicare for all and; free college for every student; these are just some of the plans Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein would like to implement, if elected in November.  Touting her Green New Deal, a play on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal of the early 20th century, Stein rolled into South Bend Sunday evening to speak at a Green Party event at the Knights of Columbus hall on East Washington Street."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Monday, March 5, 2012

Health Reform, The Two Faces of GOP, Romney Woes, Women For Medicare

 About Health Reform

From NCPSSM:  "Confused by what health care reform really means for seniors?  Join the crowd.  Take a few minutes and let this video help break it all down for you …"

"The Patients Aware campaign, created by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation, the Herndon Alliance, and the National Physicians Alliance, has released a new video to help America’s seniors understand the new Medicare benefits available to them thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  The video, 'Did You Know?', highlights new preventive benefits for seniors, Part D coverage improvements like closing the donut hole, and describes how savings have already reduced Part B premiums for seniors."

To Reform or Not to Reform: The IPAB

"There's a simple answer that explains most of what happens on Capitol Hill: political posturing.  The GOP incoherence on Medicare reform was perfectly captured by Mitt Romney recently when he said President Obama's budget wouldn't 'take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis' and in the same breath criticized the president for being 'the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors.'  Protecting Medicare now and in the future is a vote-moving issue for the older demographics, and posing as a staunch defender of Medicare yields electoral benefits.  It's been a winning issue for both Republicans and Democrats for years."

" . . .  These are reasons to reform IPAB, not repeal it outright.  Politics aside, a successful IPAB would put the U.S. on a healthier fiscal path and help politicians make difficult choices on the life-and-death decisions that loom over Medicare reform.  It's imperfect, sure, but it's workable, and it's an improvement on the status quo.  The real worry is not that IPAB will cut Medicare payments and benefits, but that it won't. "

Romney Injures Himself

"As a native son -- Romney was born and raised there -- he was initially expected to win in a walk.  Instead he barely survived a late challenge by Rick Santorum.  And the victory may prove costly in other terms.  Desperate to become the Republican nominee, he’s moved ever further to the right, matching Santorum in hardline pronouncements on health care, abortion, medicare and religion.  This at a time when most polls show Americans are more worried about jobs, the cost of oil and simply getting by."

Women's Medicare Rights

"More than 50 women's rights organizations will be using March 1, the first day of women's history month, to announce a voter-major mobilization effort for the 2012 elections.  The coalition is called HERVotes, with the HER standing for Health and Economic Rights. Goals include standing up for Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, livable wages and families' economic security."

For Your Information


Friday, March 2, 2012

Hoyer Seeks Medicare Cuts, Republican Voters Like Medicare, Pause for Health Care Reform

Who's Handling Hoyer

"The online, progressive advocacy group CREDO Action is targeting a top House Democrat and a leading advocate of far-reaching deficit reduction legislation, including both higher taxes and cuts to popular support programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  In a Monday speech, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer revealed that he’s working with a bipartisan coalition of House and Senate members to fashion a 'grand bargain' on deficits, in the hope of addressing the issue -- and possibly even passing legislation -- before the November elections."

Democrats Trusted With Medicare

"House Republicans voted for a budget plan last year that would have converted Medicare from a government-run insurance program to a voucher system that seniors could use to purchase private plans.  That budget did not become law, but discussion continues among Republicans in Congress and the GOP presidential candidates about establishing some version of 'premium support' that would direct more seniors into the private market."

"Such a plan was not popular in the Kaiser survey, with 70 percent saying they wanted to keep Medicare as is, and 25 percent favoring reform.  Even Republicans favored the status quo, though by a smaller margin -- 53 percent versus 39 percent.  Half of the survey participants also opposed the idea of using any Medicare cuts to help balance the budget.  Overall, 43 percent of the participants trusted Democrats to handle the Medicare program best, while 36 percent chose Republicans."

MORE - from Kaiser Health News:  Poll: Democrats Hold Political Advantage on Medicare Debates  (after the graph)

Affordable Care Act Safe For Now ... Maybe

"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is apparently a little desperate to get his caucus talking about anything other than social issues, seeing better opportunities in focusing on the economy and gas prices.  He's told his caucus that he doesn't want any more votes on health care repeal, like today's Blunt amendment vote, until after the November election."

The Republican Reality-Free Zone


Thursday, March 1, 2012

IPAB in GOP Trouble, Hoyer Hurts Party

Cutting the Cutter

"House Republicans are poised to advance legislation this week to repeal President Obama’s Medicare cost-cutting board, a provision enacted in the health care reform law.  The Energy & Commerce Committee is set to mark it up this Wednesday, and the repeal bill already has enough cosponsors to pass the House.  It’s not expected to survive the Senate or Obama’s veto pen, but the debate over this provision cuts to the heart of the battle over how to save Medicare in the long run."

"The question now is: Why is the party that’s hell-bent on reining in Medicare pushing to repeal this powerful tool for doing just that [cutting costs]?  Part of it is to score political points by slicing off a key piece of the Affordable Care Act.  But more importantly, Republicans don’t want to keep Medicare in its current form."

We began talking about this months ago, and now that some other issues have quieted down, it's back again.  Conservative Republicans don't mind if Medicare appears to be failing or if its cost rise.  Why?  Because it gives them an excuse to attack and kill it.

Grand Bargain Not So

"While most political eyes are fixed on Romney's primary results, the middle class faces a threat to its financial security right in the heart of the Capitol.  The Democratic Party does, too.  House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who is the living embodiment of Washington's corporatized politics, is once again pushing a 'Grand Bargain' that would cut Social Security and Medicare -- and result in more electoral losses like the ones he helped bring upon his party in 2010."

"Hoyer is the Lobbyists' Legislator, the Revolving-Door Representative, the Minority Whip who really drives floor votes for the Corporate Party rather than the electorate.  Hoyer's pseudo-centrist deficit pitch will please the rich individuals and corporations that have given him one of the biggest campaign war chests in Congress. "

The Republican Reality-Free Zone