Government Bytes


Despite Clinton's Warnings, Democrats Demagogue Medicare Reform

by Brandon Greife / /

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

That’s the question that former President 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, some short-term political gain by whipping up fears on some of these things – if it’s a reasonable Social Security proposal, a reasonable Medicare proposal. We’ve got to deal with these things. You cannot have health care devour our economy.”

Sadly, thus far Democrats have appeared either unwilling or unable to look past the 2012 elections, regardless of the disastrous long-term consequences that might entail. Take Senate Majority Leader 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 the sick sicker.”

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

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

Although that may be good politics in the short-term, it would represent a financial disaster in the long-term, threatening the existence, much less the benefit levels, of the Medicare program liberals are claiming to be such stalwart advocates of. According to the 2011 Medicare Trustees’ report, the Hospital Insurance trust fund will run out in 2024, five years earlier than last projected. In addition the report argues that the Democrats’ Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has done little to improve 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 prior law. Medicare prices would be considerably below the current relative level of Medicaid prices, which have already led to access problems for Medicaid enrollees. . . Well beforethat point, Congress would have to intervene to prevent the withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market and the severe problems with beneficiary access to care that would result.” 

Is that really 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 lead to paralysis for his plan, President Clinton said that Ryan should “give me a call.” I don’t think it’s Ryan who needs the talking to. Unfortunately, it’s the Democrats who need a talkin-to.