RNC Conveniently Forgets GOP’s Anti-Medicare Stance, Wishes Medicare A Happy Birthday

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"RNC Conveniently Forgets GOP’s Anti-Medicare Stance, Wishes Medicare A Happy Birthday"

michael-steele2Today is Medicare’s 45th anniversary, and the Republican National Committee is celebrating the occasion by trying to attack “Obamacare” and by pretending the GOP has been a defender of Medicare. The RNC posted an online research briefing called “Happy 45th Birthday Medicare!” alleging President Obama used the Affordable Care Act to take money out of Medicare: “THANKS TO OBAMACARE,” they write, “DEMOCRATS HAVE SLASHED MEDICARE FUNDING.”

Even though the GOP likes to position itself as a guardian of Medicare, the party virulently opposed its creation at the time, as the Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky outlined in a post last year:

Ronald Reagan: “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” [1961]

George H.W. Bush: Described Medicare in 1964 as “socialized medicine.” [1964]

Barry Goldwater: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink.” [1964]

Bob Dole: In 1996, while running for the Presidency, Dole openly bragged that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” [1965]

Beyond historical hostility to Medicare’s existence, conservative politicians are still actively trying to de-fund and eliminate the program. In 1995, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) tried to justify his idea to cut 14% from Medicare over seven years as a way to make the program “wither on the vine.” And, as recently as last summer, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the GOP Health Solutions Group, said “you could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business.”

In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) promised to cut $1.3 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid if he became president. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), called “one of the party’s most influential voices on the economy” by Ezra Klein yesterday, has released a budget plan that would privatize Medicare by 2021.

Instead of hiding the party’s history on the issue, the RNC’s birthday message could have mentioned positive aspects of Medicare. For example, according to Health Affairs, “the health of the elderly population has improved, as measured by both longevity and functional status” since Medicare passed in 1965. In addition, a Commonwealth Fund survey found “elderly Medicare beneficiaries reported greater overall satisfaction with their health coverage, better access to care, and fewer problems paying medical bills than people covered by employer-sponsored plans.”

William Tomasko

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