Skip to comments.Byron York: Will Obama pay the price for cutting Medicare?
Posted on 08/10/2009 10:44:55 PM PDT by Stoat
To pay for the bulk of his proposed remake of the health care system, the president has a two-part plan. Half the money would come from tax increases, and the other half from reduced spending on Medicare.
Obama proposes to come up with improvements in the vast Medicare system that will allow him to extend health care coverage to millions of currently uncovered people, make no cuts in existing Medicare benefits, and save money in the process. "We will find the money through savings and efficiencies within the health care system," Obama said at his July 23 news conference.
Unlike a number of experts, many of the president's Democratic colleagues apparently believe that. And in doing so, they are singing a far, far different tune from the last time Medicare was the subject of an all-out political battle.
Back in 1994 and 1995, the newly elected Republican majority in Congress concluded that Medicare's costs were spiraling out of control. Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole proposed to slow the rate of growth of Medicare expenditures -- not cut them, just reduce the speed at which costs were rising.
Democrats, from President Bill Clinton down, beat the hell of out them for it. From mid-1995 through the 1996 presidential election, hardly a day went by without some Democrat accusing Gingrich, Dole, and the Republican Congress of plotting to slash Medicare benefits and throw America's seniors on the streets.
"The onslaught was unbelievable," recalls J.D. Hayworth, who at the time was a backbench GOP lawmaker from the retiree haven of Arizona. "We were ripped up one side and down the other. In my district, the AFL-CIO spent $1.8 million telling old people I was going to cut off their Medicare."
In Washington, Democratic lawmakers grew increasingly shrill. Tom Daschle, then the party's leader in the Senate, threatened to "shut the place down" -- by that he meant the entire Senate -- if that's what it took "to stop the draconian and extraordinarily devastating consequences" of the Republicans' plan.
In the end, the Democrats succeeded. The GOP plan was beaten back and Dole was trounced in 1996. The lesson seemed clear: If you want to talk about, or even hint, or even suggest, slowing the rate of growth in Medicare spending, you'll do it at your own risk.
And yet now, here is Obama, proposing to squeeze hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare, and Democrats who were apoplectic in 1995 are strangely quiet. "When we proposed it, it was called a 'draconian cut,'" recalls one veteran Republican Hill aide. "Now, it's called 'savings.'"
Obama's proposal -- no details yet on precisely how he'll find all those "savings" and "efficiencies" -- is even more striking when you consider that during the campaign he attacked Sen. John McCain for allegedly planning reductions in Medicare spending. One Obama commercial dramatically concluded, "Cutting Medicare --we can't afford John McCain."
What's more, the president insists his plan won't hurt a bit. At his July 23 news conference, Obama was asked, "Specifically, what kind of pain, what kind of sacrifice, are you calling on beneficiaries to make?"
"No, no," the president answered. He would not reduce anyone's Medicare benefits, Obama promised, but rather "change how those benefits are delivered so that they're more efficient."
Be very, very skeptical. "It's not going to be painless," says Sen. Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who is also a family-practice physician. "You can't say there's not going to be an impact from taking a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare in the next ten years, when large numbers of doctors won't take new Medicare patients and we're going to have the retirement of the baby boomers."
So far, the health care battle has not focused specifically on the proposed Medicare cuts. But older Americans are the most avid voters in the country, and the latest Gallup poll shows that just 48 percent of people age 65 or older approve of the job Obama is doing as president -- the lowest of any age group. Much of Obama's problem with them can be traced directly to the health care issue.
The numbers are just one ominous sign for the president. Sooner or later, Obama will pay a political price for his plan to cut Medicare.
Who will serve them all?..
How the devil can he have tax increases if people are out of work? Is this man sick?
Once they pass the bill and get the vast new bureaucracy they want, they will “recognize their error” and put half the Medicare funds back in...before the 2010 campaign.
Not only will they NOT suffer for cutting Medicare by $500 billion.
They’ll get credit for “adding” $250 billion, just in time for the election.
Depressing isn’t it?
I've always understood he's an obstetrician, although I suppose he could have been FP and just delivered a lot of babies.
They also neglect another side effect - the shift away from health care for the elderly quickens (i.e., rationing) their demise, therefore saving on thoe otherwise continued Social Security payouts, hence yielding more money to the Government.
I well remember when that snake LIEberman was Gore’s veep choice......he was down in Florida visiting the jewish retirement communities and telling them that if Bush was elected he would be cutting their Medicare benefits.
Will he stand up against these proposed cuts in Medicare?
Anyone holding their breath waiting for LIEberman to do the right thing?
So millions of Americans who have paid into the Medicare system for years will have their benefits reduced so Komrade Obamachev can give more free medical care to moochers and illegals.
We hear so much about empathy from this administration -
Where is the empathy for people who struggle to pay their own way but keep getting ripped off in these racist/socialist wealth redistribution schemes?
Will Obama pay the price, Only if RNC is willing to spend 2 million in safe Dem districts.