Recently, former President BillClinton warned Democrats that they were “going to have to be willing to giveup, maybe, some short-term political gain by whipping up fears” about Medicare.
“Whipping up fears” is the niceway to say it. Given that Democrats recently came out with a political addepicting a Paul Ryan-esque figure literally throwing an elderlywoman off of a cliff, scaring the ever-living-bejesus is probably a moreapt way to describe it.
Such partisan demagoguery makes amockery of the very real problem we face. It’s based on a calculation thatemphasizes the short-term political success of their party over the long termfinancial well being of our program.
Fortunately, Republicans aretaking a different tack. In a new video: Saving Medicare: Visualized, Ryanignores the impulse to treat voters as children, opting instead to have anadult conversation about the unsustainable trajectory of Medicare spending andits impact on our debt. Unlike the cheap gimmick of throwing grannie off acliff, Ryan’s video evokes fear based in reality – that without reform Medicarewill bankrupt our country.
In an op-edin today’s Wall Street Journal,Thomas Saving and John Goodman, a former Medicare trustee and the President ofthe National Center for Policy Analysis respectively, unveil just howunsustainable the Democrats’ vision for Medicare is. Recently, House MinorityLeader Nancy Pelosi saidDemocrats have already “[given] the blueprint for how we strengthen Medicare inthe Affordable Care Act.” But Saving and Goodman argue that any “strengthening”was nothing more than a parlor trick.
“In terms of the sheer dollarsinvolved,” they argue, “the law’s reduction in future Medicare payments is the equivalentof 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 keepthe system as is and raise the age of eligibility, the reform law instead tries to achieve equivalent savings by paying lessto the providers of care.”
Once you leave the fantasyland ofthe written page, paying less to providers will have enormous real world consequences.Reduced payment rates will reduce the amount of doctors who will acceptMedicare patients, making it harder for seniors to find a doctor. Onceadmitted, they will likely face reduced amenities, a lower level of care, andreduced treatment options.
The fact is, there is just nogetting around the absolute need to reform Medicare. Democrats can continue to ignorethe problem and choose to maximize their political gain by preying on the fearsof older voters. But with America teetering on the edge of financial ruin, howmuch longer can they afford to play these games? After all, what good iswinning an election, if you have to force the nation into default to do it?