Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eleven Dimensional Medicare Cutting Chess

The Democrats on the super committee are so hell bent on cutting medicare it's frightening: (TPM, via Digby)
“As I have thought about it…under the Affordable Health Care Act we provide subsidies for people who have really chronic illnesses and people who have limited incomes so they can afford health care insurance in the private sector,” Bowles told the panel during an exchange with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). “And that didn’t exist before the Affordable Health Care Act. That means that people 65, 66, 67 will still be able to get health care insurance. So as I think about it I could support raising the health care age for Medicare since we have other coverage available under the Affordable Health Care Act.”

In private budget negotiations earlier this year with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), President Obama entertained the same idea — a slow increase in the Medicare retirement age — provided Boehner find votes for over $1 trillion in new revenues. The discussions quickly fell apart.

The proposal infuriates progressives, and other defenders of single-payer Medicare, who note that the proposal is regressive — hitting elderly minorities and poor people who have lower life expectancies hardest — and shifts costs on to seniors, states, employers, and other federal programs. And it doesn’t save much money.
Ok, so it's not just that Kerry is proposing benefit cuts to medicare, but the argument he is using is particularly maddening. His logic: because of Obama's health care bill (you know, the one that very well may not exist after 2012), we should begin to dismantle Medicare, the only thing resembling a good health care system that we have in this country.

This is bringing back all of my angry health care bill emotions, so bare with me for a minute. During the negotiations, there was a step by step argument that supporters of the bill used to ridicule the complaints of those that were seriously concerned that it didn't address the fundamental problem in our health care system (which to many of us, is the lack of genuine competition to private health insurance).

First we were told that expanding medicare and single payer were great, just not feasible, and that a shitty public option that couldn't even be tied to medicare rates was the best we could do. With hopes that it might be improved later, many people reluctantly accepted this compromise, and figured that strengthening the stranglehold that private insurance has over our system is worth it, as long as something resembling genuine competition could happen in the future (this made sense to me at the time? What the fuck was I thinking?)

We all know how this ended, with Lieberman killing a medicare buy in, and the Obama administration having negotiated away the public option early in the summer while falsely claiming it didn't have the votes to make it in the final bill. So we ended up with a bill that further regulates our shitty private system, while fundamentally cementing it's place in our health care system, with no expansion of medicare or a public option in sight. A lot of people begrudgingly excepted this, thinking this was the best our system could do, and that at least 30 million more people would have access to health insurance who didn't have it before.

But let's be clear about one thing: Never, ever during the endless year that we debated health care, did anyone make the argument that the shit sandwich the were proposing was just as good as medicare, which is exactly what John Kerry is saying. He's proposing we dismantle the closest thing we have to a good health care system in this country, and using Obama's far from good (and may not even be attempted) health care bill as the justification.

And think of the payoff! Now that we've spent 2 years parroting right wing proposals to hurt the economy... DEFICITS ARE FINALLY OFF THE TABLE!

Why are the off the table? Because we said so! Is there even a table? Maybe. Is there anything stopping us or the Republicans from trying to destroy medicare and social security further? Well, no, but you see, they're off the table now, and that means something!

It's also fairly ironic that two years after getting our hearts broken by Douche Lieberman's refusal to vote for the medicare buy in, the Democrats are now proposing a reveres medicare buy in, where shitty private insurance replaces your ability to get medicare.

Everyone who questioned the administration's embrace of austerity has to admit that going from proposals to expand our nation's only successful health care program to proposals that severely weaken it in only 2 years' time is damn impressive! Heckuva job guys!


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