Throughout the health care debate, Republicans attacked reform as a raid on Medicare because it cut $500 billion from the program. But now as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduces a new budget plan that would privatize Medicare completely, Republicans will have to square their previous attacks against ‘Obamacare’ with their endorsement of Ryan’s plan. This morning on NBC’s today show, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus audaciously tried to have it both ways — criticizing Obama for cutting Medicare subsidies while endorsing Ryan’s Medicare-busting proposal:
PRIEBUS: [Obama] has completely trashed Medicare by raiding it by $500 billion to provide us a government-run health care program that nobody wants. [...] I think even the hardest Democrats would agree that if we don’t get serious about where Medicare, and Social Security and Medicaid are going in this country, then we are about to walk off a fiscal cliff. [...]
Paul Ryan and Speaker Boehner introducing a serious as a heart attack budget this morning that will tackle $6 trillion over the next ten years in spending in this country. It’s the Republicans that are serious about these issues. It’s the President that’s filling out NCAA brackets, going to the Jonas Brothers and golfing and not tackling any of these issues and only criticizing Republicans.
Preibus is not the only Republican to criticize Democrats for cutting Medicare:
- SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): “Democrats are peddling talking points that are directly contradicted by their actual legislation. They are holding a press conference to pat themselves on the back for ‘protecting’ Medicare, even though their government takeover of health care bill would cut seniors’ Medicare benefits by $500 billion. Are you kidding me?” [10/30/2009]
- MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR (R-VA): “It’s paid for on the backs of seniors, which cuts Medicare by over $500 billion.” [Fox and Friends, 11/4/09]
- REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI): “In order to pay for the trillion dollar health care overhaul making its way through Congress, hundred of billions of dollars will come from new tax hikes, hundreds of billions of dollars will be borrowed, and hundreds of billions of dollars will be cut from Medicare. I realize that the President promised not to cut Medicare benefits, but the proposed bills do exactly that. [10/1/2009]
- REP. DAVE CAMP (R-MI): “And let me just say, seniors’ health is too important to risk on one gigantic bill that cuts a half a trillion dollars in Medicare, that’s being drafted in secret behind closed doors.” [10/28/09]
Indeed, the two approaches are very different. Ryan would cut Medicare by simply “reducing the amounts that the federal government would pay for enrollees on a per capita basis” — i.e. cutting the federal government’s contribution to the program and shifting those costs on the individual. The Affordable Care Act slows growth in the program by eliminating overpayments to private insurers, getting rid of waste in the program and slowly phasing in payment adjustments that encourage providers to deliver care more efficiently. As a result the law extends the life of the Medicare trust fund by 12 years and allows seniors to retain all of their guaranteed Medicare benefits.