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Despite Clinton's Warnings, Democrats Demagogue Medicare Reform

by Brandon Greife / /

Many Democrats are wrongfullyhailing the New York special election as a critical victory over  Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan. They’rebeginning to see how Medicare demagoguery and scare tactics could be a potentrecipe for winning big in the 2012 elections. But at what cost?  

That’s the question that formerPresident and respected thinker Bill Clinton has apparently been asking himself.Speaking yesterday at a fiscal summit hosted by the Peter Peterson Foundation,Clinton said,“I think the Democrats are going to have to be willing to give up, maybe, someshort-term political gain by whipping up fears on some of these things – if it’sa reasonable Social Security proposal, a reasonable Medicare proposal. We’ve got to deal with these things. Youcannot have health care devour our economy.”

Sadly, thus far Democrats have appearedeither unwilling or unable to look past the 2012 elections, regardless of thedisastrous long-term consequences that might entail. Take Senate MajorityLeader Harry Reid who used his time on the Senate floor to say,“The Republican plan to kill Medicare is a plan to make the rich richer and thesick sicker.”

Quotes like that seem to confirmPresident Clinton’s fears about his party’s misreading the New York tea leaves.In a candid conversation caught by ABCNews, Clinton was overheard telling Ryan “I’m glad we won this race in NewYork, [but] I hope Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing.”

Nothing appears to be exactly whatDemocrats plan to do. When asked what her plan was for Medicare, House MinorityLeader Nancy Pelosi responded,“It is a flag we’ve planted that we will protect and defend. We have a plan. It’scalled Medicare.” In other words, their plan to reform Medicare, is, well, toleave it alone.

Although that may be good politicsin the short-term, it would represent a financial disaster in the long-term, threateningthe existence, much less the benefit levels, of the Medicare program liberalsare claiming to be such stalwart advocates of. According to the 2011 MedicareTrustees’ report, the Hospital Insurance trust fund will run out in 2024,five years earlier than last projected. In addition the report argues that theDemocrats’ Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has done little toimprove Medicare’s actuarial future. The report states,

“By the end of thelong-range projection period,Medicare prices . . . would be less than half of their level under the priorlaw. Medicare prices would be considerably below the current relative level ofMedicaid prices, which have already led to access problems for Medicaidenrollees. . . Well beforethat point, Congress would have to intervene toprevent the withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market and the severeproblems with beneficiary access to care that would result.” 

Is thatreally the future that Democrats want to fight for tooth and nail?

After Rep.Ryan expressed how disheartened he was that the New York race would likely leadto paralysis for his plan, President Clinton said that Ryan should “give me acall.” I don’t think it’s Ryan who needs the talking to. Unfortunately, it’sthe Democrats who need a talkin-to.