McCaskill: “I’m Not Willing To Blow Up Medicare”

Saint Rachel Maddow had a dustup on Meet the Press  with right-winger and editor of National Review Rich Lowry. Following the lead of his lying leader, Lowry was pushing a two-year-old lie (which Democrats failed to adequately address in 2010) that Obama’s health care reform law slashed billions out of Medicare:

RICH LOWRY: …Republicans should go on offense on Medicare, because the president, as part of Obamacare, passed $700 billion in cuts in Medicare.  And Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, including those cuts…So at the top of a ticket Romney versus Obama, there’s only one of those guys who wants any cuts affecting current seniors…That’s not Mitt Romney.

Of course that is blatantly false. There were exactly zero cuts in Medicare benefits to “current seniors” or, indeed, to future seniors. The “cuts” were actually reductions in the future payments the program makes to participating hospitals (and other providers but not including doctors) and reductions in Bush-era overpayments to private insurance companies participating in Medicare Advantage.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Gail Wilensky, former administrator—under W. Bush—of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare:

There are no reductions in the Medicare benefits promised in law.

Obviously, that fact hasn’t stopped Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans, including the national Chamber of Commerce, from lying about the issue—going on offense, as Lowry described it—which is made worse by the fact that, as Maddow tried to point out on Sunday, Paul Ryan’s budget contains the same “cuts” to Medicare!

At the end, Maddow asked Lowry a question:

What I want to know is the logic of attacking somebody for something that you yourself are proposing to do?

Logic? Ah, the logic in lying about imaginary Medicare cuts is in the fact that Republicans have so much money this year they can lie, and lie continuously, with impunity. Like here in Missouri, where, as Bloomberg points out, the Rovian smear group, Crossroads GPS, is doing damage to Claire McCaskill:

…an ad sponsored by Crossroads that’s run 858 times says Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill voted for Medicare cuts that could slash benefits for the program’s enrollees.

That ad ran 858 times as of June 28! It has undoubtedly run a gazillion times since, as McCaskill has become, in the words of Andy Kroll at Mother Jones, “Dark Money’s Top Target.”

Well, McCaskill is at least fighting back with charges of her own. This morning on Fox and Friends, the show with the ambitious mission of extirpating IQs everywhere,  she was treated rather rudely by host Steve Doocy, but before he went on an inelegant Romney-Ryan offensive, she managed to get in a shot at Paul Ryan:

I think he’s willing to blow up Medicare to give more tax cuts to folks at the very top…I have worked in a bipartisan way to bring down federal spending, but I’m not willing to blow up Medicare in the process—especially when you consider that Paul Ryan believes that at the same time we blow up Medicare, we need to give another tax cut to people who make more than a million a year.

“Blow up Medicare.” I like that phrase because it perfectly describes what conservatives have wanted to do to the program since it was created. Blow it up, obliterate it, or, as they phrase it these days, “save” it.

9 Comments

  1. ansonburlingame

     /  August 14, 2012

    See how twisted the rhetoric become with so much spin eveyone get dizzy, including the speakers!!

    No, Medicare coverage (if you get sick we pay for it as long a “we” get to define “sick”) is not reduced by ACA. But ACA as it currently stands DOES pay LESS for the services to treat the “sickness”. Again, as it currently stands treatment for sickness (of people over 65) does not change but the government will pay someone, the providers, less for the treatment.

    Yes Granma, if you have cancer we will still treat it. But as well for you greedy hospitals, etc. we will pay YOU less to provide the treatment. Now how long do you do such before “Medicare blows up in your face” with providers no longer being able to provide the treatment at prevailing payments provided by government?

    And that approach ONLY applies to Medicare payments, paying less than hospitals at least will say is sustainable. So what do hospitals do, they raise the rates charged on the uninsured and even the non-Medicare insured. Well there go your Medicaid rates and HC premiumns, right through the roof.

    And then you say “universal HC for all”, I think the EC even called it Medicare for ALL at some point.

    Well that will do just fine and we can bring down our annual cost of HC in the country from $2.5 Trillion to say $1.5 Trillion (which we can’t afford either). Then we can all go to hospitals and see Doctors just like all communist citizens did in the Soviet Union for a few decades.

    How long will Americans stand for THAT?

    Hell I doubt that Americans will even stand for European style socialized medicine. But even if they did so, Europe obviously cannot afford to pay for such today either along with all the other demands coming from Europeans on their governments, many of whom are looming on the threshold of bankruptcy.

    Solution is clear is it not. Bring services DOWN and taxes on ALL Americans UP until payment for services equals money to pay for such services. We cannot even agree how to do that for Medicare alone, much less the all the other services demanded from government today, in Europe OR America.

    Anson

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  2. I remain convinced that the public option would work just fine for America, and I am just as convinced that the electorate will never accept such until the present for-profit system collapses of its own weight, the timing of which is unpredictable. In the meantime, Medicare and the ACA are greatly preferable to Ryan’s voucher system which would relegate the poorest and sickest to the nation’s emergency rooms. Which brings up an interesting thought: I wish someone would ask Ryan what he thinks about EMTALA.

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    • I couldn’t agree more, Jim. And I just about guarantee that no one will ask him such a question.

      By the way, I appreciated your excellent letter in the Globe on the ACA, especially connecting it to the Pittsburg clinic. I had wanted to write a column for the paper on just that issue, but I guess I feared being rejected again.

      Duane

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      • Thanks, Duane, I’m glad someone noticed my letter. Pointing out the truth in this part of the country seems to have all the impact of punching a pillow.

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  August 15, 2012

    Jim,

    I understand your motives for insisting that our HC system will ultimately “fall of its own weight”. Actually it almost sounds like a “hope” that such will happen. Well let it “crash” but THEN actually come up with a plan to replace it, a plan that is financially sustainable in the future. Actually, I would prefer a viable and sustainable plan BEFORE the HC system comes down around our heads!

    Do that JUST for HC, forgetting all the other “safety net” issues surrounding us. In doing so you and yours will fundamentally change “America as we know it” today.

    You made a “mini-step” in attempting to do so with ACA and look what happened at the ballot box. The American electorate got just a “sniff” of European socialism and it was and remains very unpopular with the majority of today’s American voters. Hold a popular vote on JUST ACA today and it would go down by maybe a 70% majority popular vote, according to polls at least.

    Solution? Change the makeup of American voters with demographics is the EC call. Fine. Then confront the problem as Europe is confronting now. “Socialism is GREAT, as long as there are enough Capitalists to pay for it”.

    It took China, post Mao, about 30 years to figure that one out and that country is trying to create capitalists all over the place. Hell they even let capitalists become members of the Chinese Communist Party today!! Keep doing that and I wonder what Chinese economic policy might be in 2050 as they consume our butts back to the stone age of modern economics!!

    Anson

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    • @ Anson et. al.,

      Implying that I hope the HC system fails is nonsense. A prediction is not a hope. But you are right about the unpopularity of the ACA with the electorate, and that’s because the conservative right has been so successful, as Duane mentioned, in repeating over and over again how disgusting and evil is socialized medicine. Most people have bought into the myth, and it is a myth, that the present for-profit system is a model of capitalism when nothing could be further from the truth. Americans are not getting anywhere near their money’s worth in healthcare from a system designed not for optimum efficiency but for maximum profit. It is a matter of record that government-run systems, systems that promote preventive care, cost some 2 1/2 times less than ours. [Some efficiencies that promise to reduce our outrageous medical-error rate, such as electronic medical records, are being implemented, thanks to the ACA however. You know, that’s the program that mandates that everybody pay a fair share into an insurance system that everybody will eventually use. That’s the program that MItt Romney and Paul Ryan want to abolish in its entirety.]

      My family encountered an example of what the current for-profit HC system costs just last week. My 8-year old grandson had an accident and was bleeding profusely from a wound in his forehead. The visit to the E.R. involved about an hour and a half during which he was actually attended by medical personnel for about 25 minutes. They cleaned the wound, numbed it (the only medical drug involved), and put four stitches in it. No imaging or other testing was involved. My son left the E.R. with the bill in hand – that’s the way it’s done now. It was $987 and my son, who is actually an employee of the hospital and who has excellent insurance by most standards, will pay a copayment of $250. Thus, on an hourly basis, the rate would be 987 x 60/25 = $2,368/ per hour. Even if you figure half is overhead, that would still be a labor rate of almost $1,200 per hour! If you think that’s reasonable, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      Look, I give Ryan credit for political courage for being willing to even tackle the subject. Reform is desperately needed. What I object to is the disastrously regressive nature of his plan. That and the supposition that mere competition among HC insurance companies will rein in burgeoning HC costs – I don’t believe that for a NY minute. Currently HC insurance companies have an administrative profit margin of over 25%, and that’s mainly for paper-shuffling. What a bidness! But it’s a bidness for which Mitt Romney must have great empathy – riches from financial manipulation! Kinda like Bain Capital if you ask me.

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  August 17, 2012

    If you don’t like the “disasterously regressive nature” of the Ryan plan then put your own plan out there in the same detail that Ryan has done.

    He at least figured out how to pay for his plan. You won’t stand a chance of doing so, progressive as your plan might be.

    HC MUST become affordable and sustainable. NO ONE has yet broken the code to do so and keep it in a form of delivery acceptable to most Americans. Instead we are stuck with a “regressive” proposal on one hand and an unafforable and unsustainable “suggestion” (but for sure not a firm proposal) on the other and Americans are pissed off such is the case.

    As well you call for HC to be one with “optimum efficiency”. NEVER have I EVER heard of government producing such a thing, optimally efficient. Just take a “little thing” like trying to build a nuclear submarine with optimal efficiency. I watched Electric Boat try hard to do so to build the first Trident Submarine (for almost 4 years). Then the Navy came along and found about three “bad welds” and the shipyard spent a year tearing out half the submarine to “prove” those were isolated and fixable errors. Just that little exercise cost probably $500 million or more in taxpayer dollars and it was an example of “safety” completly overwhelming “efficiency”.

    I will NEVER forget when P Takis Veliotis (EB General Manager) publicly testified in Congress after that debacle. He plunked down a bag filled with ALL the “bad welds” found after tearing apart most of a perfectly good submarine. That little maybe ten pound bag of stuff cost America…..?

    Then see how “efficient” government was in oversight of oil rigs in the Gulf or how “efficient” the NRC might be in “regulating” nuclear power plants, or “efficient” in regulating WS pre GR. When things go wrong in government efficiency goes out the door. They simply call for MORE (money, people, etc) to “fix” things. Such is ANY bureaucracy since humans invented bureaucracies.

    Now if preventive HC is so “efficient” and saves so much money, why has not private HC insurance not yet figured that one out. You KNOW there must be many “cost benefit” things going on for years on just that issue alone.

    anson

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  5. McCaskill’s dicey reelection chances improve daily with more and more information coming to light depicting just how intensely weird Todd Aiken’s views are concerning the separation of church and state.

    During an interview with Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, Aiken’s was upset NBC excluded the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance during their coverage of the 2011 U.S. Open championship.

    Aiken: “Well, I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.”

    Since Aiken is a willing participant in government, I surmise that he performs his job as a United States Congressman under great psychological duress. After all, God can’t be at all pleased that Todd is a functionary in a rival entity. Instead of asking why God permits evil, maybe the better question is why does God permit government? Or rather than label Medicare socialist and un-American, Brother Todd should just cut to the chase and declare all federal social safety net programs the handiwork of Satan. For that matter, the Second Amendment and National Parks must displease the Lord.

    I don’t know if Romney or Ryan share Todd’s theological distaste for secular representative government, but their reluctance to divulge specifics concerning economic growth could mirror a belief that the devil really is in legislative details.

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    • Your take on Aiken is insightful, John. I can’t help but think of how his beliefs seem to parallel those of religious leaders in the Islamic world. But he will have to come up with a better wording for his governance structure. “American Taliban” just doesn’t have a good ring to it. 🙄

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