In his health care speech to a joint session of Congress earlier this month, President Obama said that his proposed cuts to Medicare “will ensure that you – America’s seniors – get the benefits you’ve been promised.”
But Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, disagrees. He testified yesterday that the proposed changes would “would reduce the extra benefits that would be made available to beneficiaries through Medicare Advantage plans.” That is, the privately-administered plans that will see a funding cut to help pay for health care legislation.
I’ve been of two minds about the recent Medicare debate. On the one hand, I worry about the long-term impact of the Republican decision to make protecting Medicare from any cuts a focal point of their opposition to health care legislation. Not only does it distract from other arguments that attack the very idea of government-run health care, but it helps perpetuate the third rail status of a program that, if its growth is left unchecked, will bankrupt the country. If Democrats are unable to touch Medicare, then there’s absolutely no hope that somewhere down the line a conservative administration would be able to do so.
At the same time, I do think it’s important to point out that Obama is lying through his teeth when he says that cutting Medicare by $500 billion to as much as $622 billion will have absolutely no effect on anybody’s benefits. Additionally, it would be one thing if Obama were proposing these cuts as part of a larger entitlement reform, but instead he’s proposing them in the name of creating a new entitlement.