Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shifting fortunes on the fight to prevent cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits

David Dayen, who will be missed when he takes a blogging break from his FDL News gig after December 21, writes about a hopeful development on the "fiscal cliff"/Grand Bargain front in 450,000 Seniors Would Lose Coverage Under Medicare Eligibility Age Increase FDL News 12/12/2012. The data referenced in the title on how many seniors would be hurt by the White House's trial balloon proposal to cut Medicare benefits by increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67. The good news is that Nancy Pelosi is publicly defending Medicare benefits now.

In a USA Today op-ed, Truth about Medicare age 12/11/2012, she does what all Democratic leaders and elected officials should be doing, which is opposing the Grand Bargain proposal to cut benefits on Medicare. She calls it "a reflection of the broader Republican plan: an assault on the middle class, seniors -- and our future."

She is politic in keeping quiet about it being the Democratic President Obama who has been reflecting such bad, destructive Republican ideas as cutting benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as part of the Grand Bargain he's been pursuing for his entire first term. David writes, "Pelosi's being a good soldier by calling this 'the Republican plan.' In reality, this makes it extremely difficult for any Democrats to carry this plan forward, at least if they expect to get votes of Democrats in the House."

Hopefully, it will also make it harder for President Obama to endorse this portion of "the Republican plan." This part of Pelosi's op-ed could be read as directed to Obama and other Democrats who are willing to support "the Republican plan" to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid: "Republicans like to talk about their ideas in terms of abstract numbers. However, we cannot ignore the adverse impacts of their policies on the American people."

Pelosi spells out in very accessible language what the "Republican" proposal to cut benefits on Medicare by raising the eligibility age to 67 would mean, e.g., "raising the Medicare age asks the most vulnerable citizens to pay more with little to show for it in terms of long-term deficit reduction or more affordable care, for seniors or anyone else. It increases health spending across-the-board. It takes money out of the pockets of a small slice of Americans."

And she frames Medicare issues in Democratic terms of the need to protect benefits and address overall health care expenses:

Make no mistake: Democrats are ready to discuss even more savings that extend the life of Medicare without hurting beneficiaries. We should reduce health expenditures and build on our work in the Affordable Care Act to slow the growth of health costs. We should be strengthening Medicare, not undermining it.

The Republican plan, which would be phased in over more than a decade, may sound simple enough. But remember: it is brought to you by the same people who think it's a good idea to end the Medicare guarantee and turn Medicare into a voucher system -- putting seniors at the mercy of insurance companies.

Raising the Medicare age represents more of the same. For seniors nearing retirement, it means less security for themselves and their families. It betrays the bedrock promise of Medicare: that Americans who work hard and take responsibility all their lives can know dignity in their later years.
Earlier Dayen reported on other signs that the Democrats were backing away from Obama's trail baloon about cutting Medicare benefits by raising the eligibility age, Medicare Eligibility Age Increase Rejected By Obama Allies 12/10/2012.

This doesn't mean we're out of the woods on the Grand Bargain/Great Betrayal fight for December. Pelosi herself was reportedly ready to support Obama's 2011 debt-ceiling proposal to cut benefits on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But it's a good sign.

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