Who would have thought Medicare as an issue could possibly benefit Republicans? Conventional wisdom was that picking Paul Ryan would force Romney to defend Ryan’s budget and Ryan’s Medicare reform but the issue works to the Republicans advantage simply because of Obama’s own actions. By pushing Obamacare, Obama reshuffled the deck and many seniors got the shaft. It is not hard to understand why since what Obama did was to shift 700 billion dollars from Medicare to fund Obamacare. The shifting of money takes money from seniors to put in the pockets of younger workers; shift money from one entitlement to another entitlement, both of which are underfunded. What is being set up is a generational war in which limited resources are being spread among a greater number of people. Nor did it help that the reduction of FICA taxes reduced the revenues for Social Security and Medicare. (One can make the case that the tax reduction was needed to help the economy but it doesn’t change the fact that this tax is reducing revenues for the entitlements.)
Obama and the Democrats can’t come off as savior of Medicare when they are defunding it and Republicans can make the case that they are ones who will save Medicare. As National Review Richard Lowry noted, “Never before, though, have Democrats passed the largest Medicare cuts in history immediately prior to launching their tried-and-true assault. This time, it is a case of the pot calling the kettle a danger to America’s seniors.” What Democrats have called cuts in “non-essential portions of Medicare” are cuts that fall on Medicare Advantage for this option gave seniors private sector coverage options. It is a popular option and it is hated by the left. After 2013, Medicare Advantage is essentially gone and Obama’s tactic is to rely on reductions to doctors and providers to keep Medicare costs in line; so many seniors will see a reduction in services immediately. With the IPAB board in place, bureaucrats will determine what care is allowed and this only adds to the reductions. Many physicians are preparing to retire and this will only make it harder for seniors to find doctors. Obamacare increases demands for medical care services while the supply of providers declines. This is a recipe for disaster.
What the Republicans offer is a health care plan for seniors and the rest of America that is based on competition and patient’s choice while the Democrats depend upon rationing and price controls. What Ryan can state with certainty is that much of his plan has been vetted and proposed not just by Republicans but Democrats too, including most recently Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. There has been bipartisan support for much of what Ryan has proposed for the past decade and half, whereas Obamacare never received bipartisan support. In fact, the Democrats really tried to obtain bipartisan support. As Obama supposedly told one GOP legislator, “We won and you didn’t.”
Another aspect is the recent waivers allowed by the HHS to give states more flexibility in dealing with 1996 Welfare reform and while the Obama administration views these waivers as allowing states to be more flexibility to increase work, the reality is that this was designed to weaken the law. The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector has written on the loopholes that would essentially end the 1996 welfare law when he wrote:
“Unable to eliminate “workfare” legislatively, the Left now acts contrary to the law and employs a bureaucratic maneuver to gut the work requirements. The Obama administration claims authority to grant waivers that allow states to skirt these requirements …. Humorously, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius even asserts that the administration abolished the TANF work requirements in order to increase work….This is false. The Obama administration claims authority to overhaul every aspect of the TANF work provisions (section 407), including definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures and the calculation of participation rates — in other words, the whole work program. Sebelius’s HHS bureaucracy declared the existing TANF law a blank slate on which it can write any policy it chooses.”
Cato Institute’s Mike Tanner does not fully agree with Mr. Rector assessment and would concede for now that Obama has yet to gut welfare reform. Tanner wrote:
“It might be a bit of a stretch to say that the president has “gutted” welfare reform, since we don’t yet actually know what those waivers will be. Right now, we are more or less left to trust the president when he says he won’t use the waivers to weaken welfare-to-work, a dubious prospect given the president’s long record of hostility to welfare reform.”
Tanner’s point is that Obama’s waivers will most likely weaken welfare to work based on his past record and stances. In support of this thesis he noted, “For example, the Obama administration has taken upon itself the authority to waive many of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Twenty-six states have now received waivers from NCLB, allowing them to work around the law’s toughest provisions: that all students test proficient in math and science by 2014, and that schools make “adequate yearly progress” in getting students to pass standardized tests to avoid being labeled “failing.” Another dozen or so states’ waiver requests are pending.” Translation, he has used his authority in the past to weaken past reforms and Tanner added, “Even bigger concern is the president’s assertion that he has the power to waive those requirements in the first place, especially since the law clearly appears to prohibit such waivers. The authors of welfare reform, both legislators and staffers, are on record as saying that they intended to prohibit any waiver of work requirements. Representative David Camp, who helped write the law as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, says “it contained specific language prohibiting any administration from granting states waivers from the work requirement.”
Can we trust Obama to follow up on a bipartisan approach to entitlement reform? By gutting past successful entitlement reforms through bureaucratic maneuvering; could a future Obama administration even be trusted to follow through on future reforms that could pass? And would a future Obama administration use excecutive power to weaken what Congress has passed? So far the record states that Obama will do what he can to weaken any reform that don’t increase dependency or that his left wing conferates oppose.
Republicans can win the Medicare debate because Medicare is tied to Obamacare as Obama is using money from Medicare to fund Obamacare. Seniors are starting to realize that Obamacare will weaken their care. Since Obama and the Democrats have tied Medicare to Obamacare; the question that they are not answering is how does this improve health care for all? Republicans led by Romney, are making the case that it is the Conservatives who are the savior of Medicare and have a better plan to provide better healthcare reform.