This afternoon, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the first Republican amendment to the Senate’s health care reform bill. The so-called ‘motion to commit’ would send the legislation back to the Senate Finance Committee and instruct that committee to remove the $491 billion in proposed reductions from Medicare and Medicaid programs:
Madame President, simply put, this motion to commit would be a requirement that we eliminate the half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts that is envisioned by this bill. A half a trillion dollars in cuts that are unspecified as to how, and a half a trillion dollars in cuts that would directly impact the health care of citizens in this country. … All of these are cuts in the obligations that we have assumed and are the rightful benefits that people have earned. … I will eagerly look forward to hearing from the authors of this legislation as to how they can possibly achieve a half a trillion dollars in cuts without impacting existing Medicare programs negatively and eventually lead to rationing of health care in this country. That is what this motion is all about. This motion is to eliminate those unwarranted cuts.
McCain was for far more drastic Medicare cuts before he was against them. In October 2008, the McCain campaign announced that the Senator 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.” Those cuts would have reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending by as much as 20% over 10 years and cut into benefits.
In 1997, McCain (along with many Democrats) voted for a series of Medicare cuts as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. That act decreased Medicare spending by 12.7% over 10 years and instituted the kind of payment updates that the Senate bill is now recommending. In 1995, moreover, Republicans 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.”
While Republicans wanted to strip funding from Medicare to ultimately kill the program, Democrats are finding cost savings to extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund and expand the number of seniors eligible for assistance with premiums and co-pays.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.