THE TREATMENT AUGUST 24, 2009
Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment.
In this morning’s Washington Post, RNC chairman Michael Steele weighs in with what he modestly calls a “Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights.” Continuing on the death panel theme, Steele comes out against various mythical rationing measures no Democrat proposes or supports. He goes on to say the following:
First, we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of "health-insurance reform."… [President Obama] and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment.
This GOP pose as Medicare protector seemed a bit strange. So I got on my computer and googled some stories. I found the following Wall Street Journal story going all the way back to October, 8, 2008. The piece is headlined, “McCain Plans Federal Health Cuts.” It opens as follows:
John McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, a top aide said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.
The Republican presidential nominee has said little about the proposed cuts, but they are needed to keep his health-care plan "budget neutral," as he has promised. The McCain campaign hasn't given a specific figure for the cuts, but didn't dispute the analysts' estimate.
McCain advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin goes on to explain that
Mr. Holtz-Eakin said the plan is accurately described as budget neutral because it assumes enough savings in Medicare and Medicaid spending to make up the difference. He said the savings would come from eliminating Medicare fraud and by reforming payment policies to lower the overall cost of care.
(For reasons I outlined last year, the McCain health plan was bad policy that would have shifted large burdens onto low-income people to finance another huge tax cut on the wealthiest Americans.)
I leave it to readers to compare one alleged $500 billion cut to finance a “health-care experiment” with another, 2.6 times as large, to finance Republicans’ regressive health and taxation experiment proposed less than one years ago. To handicap things, readers can ignore features such as filling in the Medicare “donut hole” contained in Democratic plans. Readers can also ignore Steele’s non-mention of Medicaid, whose recipients are in genuine need of protection.
I’m no expert on the New Testament. Still, I think Mr. Steele might profit from the wisdom of Luke 6:42 before posing as the protector of America’s seniors.