17 February 2010

Saving Medicare

DoubleFacePalm

Newt Gingrich (Dear God, why does anybody pay attention to him any more?) published an op-ed in (where else?) the Wall Street Journal the other day in which he gave Obama what I am sure is some very well-intentioned advice on the health care thing.  Among his nuggets of wisdom:
Don't cut Medicare. The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong. There is no question that Medicare is on an unsustainable course; the government has promised far more than it can deliver. But this problem will not be solved by cutting Medicare in order to create new unfunded liabilities for young people.
Sounds great, except for the internal contradictory concepts of "usnsustainable" and "don't cut," but hey for rational analysis.  Maybe we can get a better sense of where this concerned citizen is coming from by examining what he proposed when he was in elected office:
As Speaker of the House, Gingrich sought to cut 14% from projected Medicare spending over seven years and force millions of elderly recipients into managed health care programs or HMOs. “We don’t want to get rid of it in round one because we don’t think it’s politically smart,” he said. “But we believe that it’s going to wither on the vine because we think [seniors] are going to leave it voluntarily.”
Oh.  Erm... awkward?

This is really the key to understanding that with the current health care reform efforts, we are not dealing with honest players.  Republicans decry "cuts" in medicare, which are not really cuts but more of an end to giveaways of public money to private insurance carriers.  Republicans decry fraud and abuse in the system (which are real problems) as evidence that the government cannot administer health care effectively, but then misrepresent efforts to reduce waste as "cuts" in services to senior citizens.  And lest some apologize for Gingrich's "former" views, make no mistake, they are very much in the mainstream of what the GOP would like to do if they ever came back to power.  Consider GOP rising star Paul Ryan's "Shadow Budget" which would essentially privatize medicare and greatly reduce its spending -- far more than ObamaCare would.  And yet they have the audacity to position themselves as defenders of medicare.  Defenders!  The program most loathed by conservatives (with the possible exception of Social Security), is the one they claim to be ardent protectors of.

I call bullshit.

2 comments:

tradingfours said...

i'm not a Newt fan but I think the point was Medicare assets should STAY with Medicare...not be transferred to fund another program. These are funds that we all contributed to medicare during our working lives and they should remain there...kind of like an HSA...not be relegated to another. So if savings in Medicare can be realized, those $$ should be put away for a Medicare Rainy Day rather than used to subsidize other health care programs. Medicare will surely need those $$ some day.

shadowfax said...

You do know there is already a Medicare Trust fund, right? So as long as the US Treasury does not start defaulting on its bonds, the "assets" within Medicare are still there.

It is true that the federal government has been "borrowing" revenues from both Social Security and Medicare since Reagan's administration, in order to support the deficit-financed budget required by the GOP aversion to taxes. I too think that the deficit should be reduced and the national debt paid as much as feasible. But the general budget crisis is a catastrophe which is entirely independent from the Medicare funding crisis.