The Mediscare Boomerang

by alexvanbuskirk

The Mediscare Boomerang: ObamaCare gives Republicans a chance to win the Medicare debate

Review & Outlook @ WSJ (August 20, 2012)

For the record, President Obama’s $716 billion is a “cut” only in the sense of slowing the rate of spending growth over 10 years, which is the baseline Democrats always use. Medicare spending will continue to rise rapidly. The Obama “cuts” come by cranking down Medicare’s price controls for hospitals and by gutting Medicare Advantage.

The real term for this familiar Beltway ploy should be Medicare austerity—i.e., keep the status quo, only less of it—rather than reducing costs over time through the structural change the program needs. But it is factually correct to say that Democrats took money from Medicare and then used the “cuts” to hide ObamaCare’s true 13-figure cost.

The larger reality is that Medicare cannot and will not continue as it is, as the President used to admit. A sampler of his rhetoric from the town-hall summer of 2009: “Mark my words,” he declared in Grand Junction, Colorado, “Medicare in about eight to nine years goes into the red. . . . It is going broke.” He added in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that “What is truly scary—what is truly risky—is if we do nothing” because Medicare is “unsustainable” and “running out of money.” In Belgrade, Montana, he said the program must be reformed “to be there for the next generation, not just for this generation.”

What he rarely mentions is how he plans to fix Medicare under ObamaCare. First the government will do things like arbitrarily commanding providers to deliver the exact same benefits except for $716 billion less. When that doesn’t work, as it surely won’t, the feds will take control of the case-by-case decisions currently made between patients and doctors and substitute the judgment of technocrats. (See what’s already happening in Massachusetts, “RomneyCare 2.0,” August 6.)

That’s the real reason liberals and the press corps claim to be so upset by the Romney Medicare ad. By governing so far to the left, Mr. Obama may have neutralized Mediscare and made voters more receptive to center-right solutions. Medicare is already changing because it must. The difference this year is that Republicans have a plan to save it.