The fact that House Republicans are holding Medicare as a hostage over raising the debt ceiling (which is their job, as it represents money they already spent) should erase the media’s confusion about just which party is coming for Medicare. Republicans are making a move to give the insurance companies the key to the treasury so they can raid it on whim.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is working with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) among other conservatives to draft the debt ceiling “options” menu. Jason Easley referred to this House plan as the Stupid Linings Playbook, because they outline several very unpopular plans, which they will be forcing just in time for the next election. It’s as if they want to make 2014 about Medicare and Social Security, even though they already lost those fights very clearly in 2012.
Ryan and House Republicans presented the option to privatize Medicare as the Big Idea for the President. While it may be hard to stomach being lectured to by the party and often individuals who voted for Bush’s unfunded Medicare Part D, but now want to pretend they are the fiscal grown ups, the truth is that these folks are only fooling their base. And how hard is that? Sadly not hard at all.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, we were treated to epic lies about Medicare from Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, who were pretending that they had no intentions to change the program. They couldn’t defend their own plans, so instead they borrowed lies from the Koch brothers about Obama’s healthcare reform law, also known as ObamaCare.
The Ryan plan would not even offer traditional Medicare except to those now 55 and older; in fact, Paul Ryan and House Republicans voted to drop traditional Medicare altogether, except for those now 55 and older. Ryan and Romney claimed they were “saving” Medicare by privatizing it, while Obama had destroyed it with ObamaCare.
Ryan claimed ObamaCare “weakens Medicare for today’s seniors and puts it at risk for the next generation. First, it funnels $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for a new entitlement we didn’t even ask for. Second, it puts 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of Medicare’s future.”
Reality? According to PolitiFact this was “Mostly False” and highly misleading, “Ryan’s comments are highly misleading. Neither Obama nor his health care law literally cut funding from the Medicare program’s budget. Still, the number has a slight basis in fact… So, yes, Obama’s law did find $716 billion in spending reductions. They were mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries.”
For these lies Ryan won many mostly false ratings, but the media was still “confused”. Even PolitiFact had a tough time with the idea that privatizing Medicare would actually be ending it as we know it. Back then, PolitiFact rated the claim that Republicans were privatizing Medicare as “mostly true”.
However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Ryan plan suggested that a voucher system would shift costs from the taxpayers to seniors (“seniors would end up paying almost twice as much out of their own pockets — or more than $12,510 a year, the CBO estimates. Altogether, the total cost of insurance would be higher”) and costs for healthcare for the elderly would increase since commercial insurers cost more to run than government plans. That’s pretty much ending Medicare as we know it, since Medicare is a safety net. It’s not a safety net if your “vouchers” don’t buy you the healthcare you need because they aren’t keeping up with rising healthcare costs.
In 2011, PolitiFact gave a good grade to President Obama’s “precise words” regarding the Republican plan, “President Barack Obama was also more precise with his words, saying the Medicare proposal ‘would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more.'” You can see that voucherize is the same thing as privatize in this scenario, but if it wasn’t clear then, House Republicans are making sure it’s clear now. They want to privatize Medicare so badly that they will hold our credit hostage to do it. But Obama eventually did say during the campaign that the Romney Ryan plan will end Medicare as we know it.
Privatizing Medicare means it is no longer a guaranteed program. It is no longer a social safety net. You’re on your own, dealing with for profit insurance companies. You’re fighting for survival in Paul Ryan’s Randian “free market”, which is the exact opposite of a social safety net.
If privatized, Republicans would be lining the pockets of executives and lobbyists with millions of dollars along with paying for advertisements, as Ray pointed out for PoliticusUSA in November of 2011. Ryan got booed during the campaign for trying to sell his privatization scheme to retirees. Paul Ryan didn’t defend his plan; he just lied about ObamaCare, using Koch-funded falsehoods.
Ryan and his running mate lost the 2012 election. So what do House Republicans do in 2013? They let Ryan be in charge of their entire budget and plan their mode of “attack” on this president. You almost want to feel sorry for them.
Republicans are now holding Medicare hostage, and this should be an ah-ha moment for the media and the fact-checkers. Paul Ryan’s claims to be saving Medicare from mean old Obama were a lie. Paul Ryan’s outrage over his inaccurate claim that ObamaCare took money from the beneficiaries of Medicare was a lie. Not only were those lies, but they are exactly what he aims to do to Medicare.
Not only do Republicans justify their Medicare destruction by lying about ObamaCare, but they can’t defend the actuality of privatized Medicare. They never want to discuss the reality of turning Medicare into a for-profit business with middlemen like David Koch (someone has to make money on your healthcare or it’s not for profit) being in charge of your Medicare. Before ObamaCare, insurance companies were dictating to doctors what care you needed based upon their very high profit margin. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what for profit Medicare would look like.
Republicans like Paul Ryan increased spending and cut taxes when they were in charge, rubber stamping huge expenditures like the unfunded Medicare Part D under Bush, which drove the deficit up. Spending under Obama is at its slowest pace since Eisenhower, but Republicans feel compelled to swagger around playing fiscal grown ups when in fact they are the adolescents who got us here by charging things on daddy’s credit card.
Instead of paying for the bills the House already approved to spend, the House Republicans are going to use their own spending in order to hold your Medicare hostage or the debt ceiling gets it again.
On one hand, Ryan and House Republicans try to sell the idea that harming Medicare would be very bad – this they do by attacking ObamaCare. In Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech, he proclaimed that he and Romney were going to save Medicare from Obama who just came and “took” money from Medicare for ObamaCare. Ryan called stealing from the elderly a cold power play, “The biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.”
But while Ryan and the Republicans are saying that to you, their other hand is behind their back trying to give your Medicare to wealthy men like David Koch so he can raid the treasury that your tax dollars funded while denying you care. They call this “privatizing Medicare”. The media might want to pretend that privatizing Medicare doesn’t end it as we know it, but it would. Perhaps they are ignorant about the usual costs/results of privatization.
Following Republicans’ own logic, if taking money out of Medicare to fund something/someone else is so rotten, then Ryan and House Republicans attempt to hold Medicare hostage in order to privatize it so their funders can make a profit off of it while leaving the elderly with useless vouchers instead of care is actually the “biggest, coldest power play of all.”
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.