Recently, former President Bill Clinton warned Democrats that they were “going to have to be willing to give up, maybe, some short-term political gain by whipping up fears” about Medicare.
“Whipping up fears” is the nice way to say it. Given that Democrats recently came out with a political ad depicting a Paul Ryan-esque figure literally throwing an elderly woman off of a cliff, scaring the ever-living-bejesus is probably a more apt way to describe it.
Such partisan demagoguery makes a mockery of the very real problem we face. It’s based on a calculation that emphasizes the short-term political success of their party over the long term financial well being of our program.
Fortunately, Republicans are taking a different tack. In a new video: Saving Medicare: Visualized, Ryan ignores the impulse to treat voters as children, opting instead to have an adult conversation about the unsustainable trajectory of Medicare spending and its impact on our debt. Unlike the cheap gimmick of throwing grannie off a cliff, Ryan’s video evokes fear based in reality – that without reform Medicare will bankrupt our country.
In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Thomas Saving and John Goodman, a former Medicare trustee and the President of the National Center for Policy Analysis respectively, unveil just how unsustainable the Democrats’ vision for Medicare is. Recently, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats have already “[given] the blueprint for how we strengthen Medicare in the Affordable Care Act.” But Saving and Goodman argue that any “strengthening” was nothing more than a parlor trick.
“In terms of the sheer dollars involved,” they argue, “the law’s reduction in future Medicare payments is the equivalent of raising the eligibility age for Medicare to age 68 for today's 65-year-olds, to age 71 for 55-year-olds and to age 74 for 45-year-olds. But rather than keep the system as is and raise the age of eligibility, the reform law instead tries to achieve equivalent savings by paying less to the providers of care.”
Once you leave the fantasyland of the written page, paying less to providers will have enormous real world consequences. Reduced payment rates will reduce the amount of doctors who will accept Medicare patients, making it harder for seniors to find a doctor. Once admitted, they will likely face reduced amenities, a lower level of care, and reduced treatment options.
The fact is, there is just no getting around the absolute need to reform Medicare. Democrats can continue to ignore the problem and choose to maximize their political gain by preying on the fears of older voters. But with America teetering on the edge of financial ruin, how much longer can they afford to play these games? After all, what good is winning an election, if you have to force the nation into default to do it?