Republicans Oppose Strengthening ‘Extremely Important’ Program They’ve Vowed To ‘Protect’

Throughout the Senate health care debate, Republicans have accused Democrats of raiding Medicare to “establish a new entitlement” and reducing “the benefits our seniors depend on.” Republican senators introduced at least five different amendments to “protect Medicare” and its beneficiaries from health care reform and unanimously voted for an amendment to ensure that seniors will continue to receive all of the guaranteed Medicare benefits “that they rely on:”

SEN. MIKE CARPO (R-ID): “The Gregg amendment simply says let’s create a lock-box for Medicare, the same kind of lock-box we need for Social Security to prevent Congress from continuing to raid Social Security. And let’s put into place to assure that all of these great statements on the floor about how we want to protect and preserve Medicare are enforced. ”

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): “There is only one way to protect Medicare and that is to support the McCain amendment.”

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): “Everyone knows Medicare is extremely important to the 43 million seniors and disabled Americans covered by the Medicare program. Throughout my Senate service I have fought to preserve Medicare for both beneficiary and providers.”

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Republicans’ new-found support for the Medicare program seems disingenuous. Despite having “a long track record of philosophically opposing Medicare and actively seeking to reduce its funding,” Republicans have offered numerous amendments to preserve the overpayments for private insures participating in the Medicare Advantage program. Those subsidies increase the cost of coverage for beneficiaries in the traditional Medicare program and reduce the life of the Medicare trust fund.

The hypocrisy became even more apparent when the very same senators who claimed to support Medicare and “protect it,” quickly dismissed the idea of opening the “extremely important” program to new enrollees. Forced to respond to a Democratic proposal that if properly designed, could extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by bringing in premium dollars from younger beneficiaries and ensure that Americans between 55 and 65 benefit from continuous care and are healthier once they reach Medicare age, Republicans refused to even consider the option. They reverted to criticizing the program they had vowed “to protect.”

“The problem with that, by anyone’s analysis, is that Medicare is due to be insolvent by 2017,” Sen. Mike Johannis (R-NE) said yesterday on CSPAN’s Washington Journal. “All of the sudden we open up this program up to a whole new list of beneficiaries? It doesn’t serve anyone’s purposes well. It’s not good for Medicare, it’s not good for the people who depend on Medicare.”

“We all know that the Medicare program has $37 trillion in unfunded obligations. We all know about the pending insolvency of the medicare program, the trustees say so every spring,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said yesterday on the floor of the Senate. “Adding millions more Americans to Medicare on top of the half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts in this Reid bill would make beneficiaries access to care much worse.”