If I had been in charge of the RNC’s fast response team today, I would have had them all over this tweet sent by Hari Sevugan, national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.
Oddly enough, I don’t think such a team exists at the RNC (though it certainly should, but that’s a subject for another post), so let me handle this one. Here is the simple truth. The Democrats have no plan to save Medicare, in its current form or any form at all. To be sure, they say they have a plan. Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, summed up what her party calls a plan ten days ago.
We have a plan. It’s called Medicare.
But saying that’s a plan doesn’t actually make it one. No one outside a small cadre of Democrat hard-liners and their media shills believe that Medicare, as it exists right now, is headed anywhere but toward catastrophic failure. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here is what the man responsible for overseeing the program said just a few days after Pelosi’s delusional statement.
…the financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range (as a result of the unsustainable reductions in physician payment rates) or the long range (because of the strong likelihood that the statutory reductions in price updates for most categories of Medicare provider services will not be viable).
Ah, but what of Obamacare and its promise to drive the cost of health care down? Well, James Clyburn, third in command of the Democrats in the House, is willing to risk the entire Medicare program on that fantasy. Here’s what he said about any potential benefit cuts.
But I know this. We are not going to reduce benefits at all.
Make no mistake, that is fantasy. Here’s how Andrew Stiles summarized the Medicare Trustees’ report.
According to the trustees’ report, Medicare’s trust fund will run out of money in 2024, five years earlier than was forecast in last year’s report. And it’s worth noting that the numbers for Medicare are already suspect due to the billions in unrealistic “savings” assumed under the new health law, e.g., assuming Congress will stop voting for the ‘doc fix.’
If the trust funds are exhausted, immediate benefits cuts would go into effect. Starting in 2024, Medicare could pay about 90 percent of benefits, but that would drop to about 75 percent in 2045. In other words, despite Democratic attempts to savage the Ryan/GOP budget for “ending Medicare as we know it” (starting in 2022), the fact is that “Medicare as we know it” simply won’t be around much longer anyway on its current path.
The chief actuary, whose letter appended to the report I quoted earlier, also notes that Obamacare’s “cost savings” will mean less health care for seniors, not in the very distant future, but soon.
Without major changes in health care delivery systems, the prices paid by Medicare for health services [under the cuts required in the new law] are very likely to fall increasingly short of the costs of providing these services. By the end of the long-range projection period, Medicare prices for hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health, hospice, ambulatory surgical center, diagnostic laboratory, and many other services 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, and far below the levels paid by private health insurance. Well before that 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. Overriding the productivity adjustments, as Congress has done repeatedly in the case of physician payment rates, would lead to far higher costs for Medicare in the long range than those projected under current law.
In other words, the only way Obamacare can bring down costs is to let the “doc fix” lapse. That, by the way, is by design. Along with the $500 billion cut the Democrats made in Medicare with Obamacare, the elimination of the “doc fix” was key to making the program square with the Democrats’ claims that it wouldn’t blow up the deficit.
However, as the chief actuary (who, by the way, doesn’t have much interest at all in shading the truth to get himself re-elected like Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn do) notes in very stark terms, if Congress does not continue to renew the “doc fix”, health care providers will simply drop out of the Medicare program as reimbursement costs fall well below their current sub-standard levels.
In other words, if the Democrats do nothing — and let’s be very clear here, that is their only plan — then Medicare “as we know it” will end and we will have nothing at all with which to replace it. Any claim to the contrary, even one made by the very head of DNC itself, is a flat-out lie.