MSNBC host Krystal Ball raked Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) over the coals Wednesday afternoon for resorting to an incoherent and disingenuous right-wing talking point on Medicare. Steve Kornacki asked Rep. Duffy what will happens to seniors when the premium support Paul Ryan would provide them under his altered form of Medicare doesn’t keep up with the costs of health care. Duffy first evaded the question — by praising Paul Ryan for inspiring a serious debate on Medicare, ironically enough — then switched to accusing Obama of taking $716 billion of seniors’ money out of Medicare. That’s when Ball jumped in:
SEAN DUFFY: They have a choice in our plan. They can pick traditional Medicare or they can go with premium support. But the way that the president has it today, they won’t get there. They won’t get there because the program is going broke. And when a program is going broke like Medicare, why would President Obama take $716 billion out of the program? Our seniors paid for it, they deserve it.
KRYSTAL BALL: Congressman, I gotta stop you there, because that is just really misleading and untrue. The same $716 billion in savings from Medicare is also in the Paul Ryan budget plan, which again you voted on. […]
DUFFY: $716 billion in savings that would stay in Medicare to preserve and protect it is one thing. But to take that money out of Medicare and use it for someone else, that is a shame. […]
BALL: And who is that somebody else? I think that is such an underhanded tactic. Who is that somebody else?
That $716 billion in cutting the growth in Medicare comes from insurers. It’s not reducing benefits, it’s reducing a taxpayer giveaway to insurers and hospitals. And you know that, and that’s why you voted for it in the Paul Ryan plan.
DUFFY: If the president says he can save $716 billion, our seniors paid for that, they’re entitled to it. Why does he lift that money out and use it for somebody else when the program is going bankrupt?
BALL: They’re getting the same benefits. They’re increased benefits. Nothing is being taken away.
Ball is correct: the $716 billion in Medicare savings in both Ryan and Obama’s budget are not cuts to seniors’ benefits. They are in the form of cuts and reforms to the reimbursement rates Medicare pays providers and hospitals for those benefits.
Because the Medicare cuts are aimed at provider payments, they do not “take $716 billion” out of the program. In fact, these savings make the dollars in Medicare go further by spending fewer of those dollars at a time to buy the same benefits. That’s why Obama’s plan actually extends the solvency of the Medicare trust fund, delaying the date the fund runs out, while Romney’s insistence on undoing the cuts also undoes that delay.
So when Duffy suggests the cuts are acceptable only if they “stay in Medicare to preserve and protect it,” he’s not even incorrect, much less correct. He’s simply nonsensical.