McConnell Opposes Medicare Cuts He Once Championed

This afternoon, during an appearance on Fox News, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised Republicans were “doing everything we can to defeat [health care reform],” before suggesting that the Democrats’ health care effort would “cut Seniors,” undermine “small businesses” and “destroy the finest health care system in the world”:

They are going to pay for this plan by cutting Medicare, that is cutting Seniors, and raising taxes on small businesses….It is a very bad program that I think is not going to pass the Senate. We are doing everything we can to defeat it.

Watch it:

All of the bills before Congress help finance health care reform by eliminating wasteful spending within the Medicare and Medicaid programs, something McConnell supported in 1997. In fact, Republicans have been such enthusiastic proponents of cutting Medicare spending that in 1995, they sought to cut 14% from projected Medicare spending over seven years and force millions of elderly recipients into managed health care programs or HMOs. As Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich admitted, “We don’t want to get rid of it in round one because we don’t think it’s politically smart,” he said. “But we believe that it’s going to wither on the vine because we think [seniors] are going to leave it voluntarily.”

Rather than “cut Seniors,” as the Republicans proposed in the 1990s, this bill would eliminate overpayments and slowly phase in payment adjustments that encourage providers to deliver quality care more efficiently; it cuts out the waste, while patching up shortages. For instance, the legislation increases seniors’ access to rural care by increasing funding to rural providers, improves the affordability of Medicare by expanding the number of seniors eligible for assistance with premiums and co-pays, and helps seniors afford prescription drugs by filling in the drug donut hole in Medicare part D.

The cuts are designed to reduce insurance company subsidies and reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions. Some of these cuts have been endorsed by the health insurance industry and they’re also the kinds of proposals that McConnell voted for as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. That act decreased Medicare spending by 12.7% over 10 years and instituted the very same kind of payment updates that McConnell is now condemning.

McConnell also repeated the false claim that financing health care reform by taxing Americans in the top income brackets (families with incomes above $350,000) would disproportionately impact small businesses. So what are we left with? Well, amongst the gross misrepresentations and outright lies, McConnell floats a ‘Republican alternative‘ that would do nothing to control health care spending or expand access. He would take Americans out of the employer-based system and give them an inadequate tax credit to purchase individual coverage. To help lower skyrocketing health care costs, he would tackle the great problem of malpractice lawsuits (the total cost of malpractice constitutes just 0.46 percent of total health care expenditures). This isn’t any kind of alternative for reform, “it’s a strategy slow this sausage-making process down” and as McConnell explained, “defeat it.”


They are going to pay for this plan by cutting Medicare, that is cutting Seniors, and raising taxes on small businesses. After this program would be implemented there would be higher taxes on small business in America than on large business and it makes no sense at all since small business employees about two-thirds of the jobs, the employees, in our country. And worse still, when it’s all over there will still be millions of people uninsured. It is a very bad program that I think is not going to pass the Senate. We are doing everything we can to defeat it.

Give us some ideas that are tenable, that the Republicans could handle and live with when it comes to reforming health care in this country.

Absolutely. To get at the problem of the uninsured we need to equalize the tax code right now that the business provides to insurance, health insurance, for its employees. It’s deductible on the corporate tax return but if an individual buys insurance it is not deductible, that ought to be equalized. Number two we ought to be incentivizing wellness programs. And number three, we ought to do something about junk law suits against doctors and hospitals that are creating massive costs through defensive medicine, driving up the costs of health care for all of us. Those are the kind of steps that we could take that would really address the problem of access and cost without scrapping the finest health care in the world.