My Turn: 'MediScare' kills needed reforms

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 12, 2011

By Steve Pender

Last month, the Senate defeated Congressman Paul Ryan’s proposal to save Medicare (the bill had passed in the House). The Democrats (and many news reports) claimed that this bill would have “killed Medicare” and that Republicans were “throwing seniors under the bus.” They claim that there is no need to change Medicare; besides, Obamacare will be fully implemented in 2013.
Yet reading the annual report of the Medicare Trustees (May 13, 2011) reveals that the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will be insolvent by 2024 (this funds Medicare Part A). Medicare is indeed in trouble.
Ryan’s plan was very promising. For starters, no one currently on Medicare would see any changes. In fact, no changes would occur for anyone entering the system within the next 10 years; anyone 55 years old (or older) would still have had the plan that they’re expecting. The changes would only be directed toward those of us under age 55 (I’m 53); and these changes take the form of block grants to the various states. This would lead to the concept of “means-testing,” which simply says that rich people can help pay for their own health care.
Since the Democrats didn’t have a plan of their own, they resorted to fear tactics. Nicknamed “MediScare,” it included, among other things, a commercial with a Ryan look-alike pushing an elderly lady out of her wheelchair and off a cliff. The producers, (“News from the Progressive Movement”), explain, “We won’t let Paul Ryan and the Republican House push our grandmothers over a cliff.”
Yet it is the Progressive Movement (which includes most of today’s Democratic Party) that is allowing Medicare to come to an end. Like its relative, Social Security, Medicare is already broke (no cash reserves); but both Medicare and Social Security are currently solvent. Funding will be interrupted, or stopped completely when insolvency occurs.
Obamacare is cutting approximately 30 percent of Medicare. This huge cut isn’t to help save Medicare though; it’s being used to offset the expected huge increase in Medicaid patients. Even worse, the 30 percent savings comes from price controls. This means that prices are controlled by (brand-new) government agencies that oversee each Medicare case and issue reports to doctors and hospitals, including dictating what procedures may be administered and how much they will be paid.
“It is reasonable to expect that Congress would find it necessary to legislatively override or otherwise modify the reductions in the future to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to health care services” states a recent report from the Office of the Actuary. The fear is that many doctors, already having stopped taking Medicaid patients, are likely now to start turning away Medicare patients as well.
Even as the job-killing Obamacare reforms are being phased in, many waivers are already being granted (more than 1,000 so far). Many big unions are getting waivers for their members, even though these unions actively (and financially) supported the passage of Obamacare. Exemptions now give their members an unfair advantage over non-union companies that can’t obtain waivers.
It’s important to remember how we got here. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fought tirelessly for a year to get Obamacare passed in the House. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) never gave up until he got it passed in the Senate.
Before the bill was passed, Democrats were asked why no one had read the (2,000 page) bill before voting on it. Speaker Pelosi summed it up best: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
This past April, in an unbelievable turn of events, Nancy Pelosi was able to obtain 20 percent of all the waivers issued that month — all for businesses and organizations in her district. Yet Harry Reid has outdone Pelosi. He obtained a waiver for his entire state. Imagine if they’d used that entire first year to promote job creation instead of pushing a failed health care package that no one had bothered reading.
The Republican plan for Medicare is stalled for now. The majority of Americans wants Medicare and would support Ryan’s plan if told the truth.
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Steve Pender lives in Rockwell.

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