Yesterday, in a sharp reversal from the tone of last year’s health care reform debate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called on Congress to cut Medicare, a program he sought to protect from any spending reductions in the health law. “Medicare is going to be much more difficult. But we have to go after the sacred cows and we have to go after entitlements,” McCain said on Face the Nation:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Eric Cantor said this morning, on Meet the Press that even cancer research is on the table. Now you and I are cancer survivors.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm. Mm-Hm. BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that’s something where we can cut back? [...]
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We have to go after the sacred cows. And then we have to go after entitlements. And entitlements have to be on the table sooner rather than later. You and I could write the solution to Social Security problems on the back of an envelope. What we have to do is sit down together and go through those– those remedies. Medicare is going to be much more difficult. But we have to go after the sacred cows and we have to go after entitlements. And the longer we wait, the worse the problem is going to be. We have saddled our kids and grandkids with a debt that is unconscionable and unsustainable and outrageous.
Throughout the health reform debate, Republicans falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act’s estimated $500 billion in cuts to Medicare would undermine senior’s benefits and introduced numerous amendments and motions instructing Congress to remove the cuts. In December of 2009, McCain even urged seniors to rip up their AARP cards to protest the organization’s support for cutting back the program. “I say to my friends, especially those who are under the Medicare Advantage program, the 300,030 in my state who admittedly they are going to cut their Medicare Advantage benefits,” McCain said at the time. “Take your AARP card, cut it in half. And send it back. They’ve betrayed you.”
Now, McCain is returning back to his belief that cutting Medicare is good thing. During the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain announced that he would pay for his health plan “with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid…in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.”
Significantly, the cuts in the health law — which McCain opposed — are far smaller than what he was once proposing. The health law does not cut the current Medicare budget, but slows growth in the program by removing approximately $500 billion from future spending over the next 10 years. The cuts help stabilize the program by eliminating overpayments and slowly phasing in payment adjustments that encourage providers to deliver quality care more efficiently.