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 CRAPO (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.”
Republicans’ newfound support for the Medicare program seems disingenuous. As Sam Stein points out, on Sunday, McConnell sent out a press release titled: ‘Cutting Medicare is not what Americans want.'” But once Democrats floated a proposal that, if properly designed, could extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by bringing in premium dollars from younger beneficiaries, Republicans reverted to familiar attacks. On Monday, McConnell issued a press release with the title, “Expanding Medicare ‘a plan for financial ruin” and on Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassely (R-IA) said that Medicare expansion would “make beneficiaries access to care much worse.”
Industry lobbyists are agreeing with the GOP. A coalition of hospitals, doctors and insurers is activating its members to oppose the expansion, claiming that it would disadvantage providers and increase costs for Americans with private insurance.