This quote from Sir Walter Scott’s poem Marmion sure applies to Republican advertising asserting President Obama’s health care reform act ‘cuts’ $700 billion from Medicare.
First it’s the use of the word ‘cuts.’ Obama’s Affordable Care Act was designed to reduce Medicare’s rate of growth, and under the Congressional Budget Office it does that to the tune of about $100 billion over 10 years. And those reductions don’t come in the form of cutting benefits, they come in the form of getting better pricing from Medicare providers. From Politifact, the pulitzer prize winning blogsite that checks out whether or not some politician is telling the truth, a half truth, some truth, or just plain lying.
Well, there are cuts and then there are CUTS. Neither Obama nor his health care law literally “cut” a dollar from the Medicare program’s budget.
Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to reduce the growth of Medicare costs. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years.
What kind of spending reductions are we talking about? They were mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries. The law makes significant reductions to Medicare Advantage, a subset of Medicare plans run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.
Hospitals, too, will be paid less if they have too many re-admissions, or if they fail to meet other new benchmarks for patient care.
Still, the overall Medicare budget is projected to go up for the foreseeable future. The health care law tries to limit that growth, making it less than it would have been without the law, but not reducing its overall budget. So claims that Obama would “cut” Medicare need more explanation to be fully accurate. In the past, we’ve rated similar statements Half True or Mostly False, depending on the wording and context….
Beezer here. And of course, the Ryan voucher plan reform for Medicare, assumes the very same cost ‘cuts,’ listed by Obama’s ACA. Again from the same politifact article.
Now onto our second question: Does Ryan’s budget keep the reductions in Medicare spending? The short answer is yes.
Here’s what Ryan said in an interview with George Stephanopolous of ABC News in June, before his selection as Romney’s running mate:
Stephanopoulos: “You know, several independent fact-checkers have taken a look at that claim, the $500 billion in Medicare cuts, and said that it’s misleading. And in fact, by that accounting, your budget, your own budget, which Gov. Romney has endorsed, would also have $500 billion in Medicare cuts.
Ryan: “Well, our budget keeps that money for Medicare to extend its solvency. What Obamacare does is it takes that money from Medicare to spend on Obamacare. …” (Read the full exchange.)
So Ryan has confirmed his budget includes the Medicare savings.
Beezer here. Ryan is talking about his proposal that passed in the House. Romney, now running the ads about Obama cutting $700 billion (it’s a higher amount primarily because the savings-or cuts-originally were estimated at $500 billion over 10 years when the law first passed almost three years ago. Updating the savings for the next 10 years from now shows them increasing as a result) didn’t realize the Ryan plan includes the exact same cuts as Obama’s plan. Uh Oh. What to do? Simple. Romney says he’ll end Obamacare and not include any cuts, or savings if you will. Will somebody tell Mitt no one thinks reining in health care cost increases is a bad idea. Something about running up deficits and all that. From an article on this new problem facing Romney in Boston.com.
Meanwhile, as this is all happening, another group of Republicans is spending their time running for the Republican presidential nomination, among them, Mitt Romney. After initially putting some distance between himself and Ryan’s budget plan, Romney gives the plan an enthusiastic embrace, though not a complete endorsement. Mitt, you see, wants to repeal every word and punctuation mark of the ACA, including the Medicare reductions.
Now, the Romney campaign’s budget proposal includes major tax cuts, defense spending hikes, a balanced budget amendment, and enormous (though unspecified) reductions in all other federal spending (he holds Social Security, not Medicare, harmless). These reductions would require Medicare cuts far greater than anything in the ACA; indeed, the ACA reductions would only be a down-payment on the necessary cuts to come.
Then there is ObamaCare, and Romney’s promise to repeal it in toto. Best circumstance for Republicans — they hold the House, retake the White House, and retake the Senate with less than a filibuster proof 60-vote margin. Their only way to deliver on their (and Romney’s) promised ACA repeal is to use the budget reconciliation process which requires that legislation must reduce, and not increase, the federal debt. The ACA, as confirmed repeatedly by the CBO, reduces the federal debt by more than $100 billion over ten years. The only practical way for Republicans to surmount this hurdle is to repeal all coverage expansions for the uninsured — plus the ACA’s tax increases — and leave in place the Medicare reductions.
Such a move would be seen an act of extreme bad faith with hospitals, home health agencies and other health care stakeholders who agreed to the Medicare reductions in exchange for the coverage expansions. But, hey, Republicans will say, that’s what happens when you lie down with Democrats, so stuff it.
All of which brings us back to the Romney-Ryan disagreement on the ACA’s Medicare reductions. Romney knows he can’t forfeit the talking point of ObamaCare’s cuts to Medicare; and Ryan understands the budget math and politics.
So what happens? My guess: during the campaign, Romney wins and Ryan folds — if he has to. After all, Republicans have suffered just about zero damage on this issue after voting overwhelmingly for the Medicare cuts in Ryan’s 2011 and 2012 budget plans. So why worry? And once Republicans are in power in 2013, bring out the Etch-a-Sketch because it’s time for another “reset.”
And maybe not.
Beezer again. Face it, Romney will say anything to win. Absolutely anything. The math is simple. You promise to provide even more tax cuts, to keep expanding defense spending, keep subsidies galore, and refuse to accept agreed upon savings to Medicare, then you’re proposing financial ruin for just about everyone, particularly the elderly. But not to worry. His billionaire buddies will make certain the truth gets literally drowned out by the half truths, or outright lies, of their advertising. Tax free advertising, by the way.