The partisan press has been desperately seeking some weapon that will destroy the GOP presidential candidate who frightens them the most — Ben Carson. Last month, when they realized Carson had defied expert predictions that he would fade away due to lack of funding and earned coverage, the “news” media went after him with all the racist venom they reserve for black conservatives. That failed. Carson’s rise in the polls has continued unabated and recent surveys suggest that he will beat Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses. This has panicked these purported journalists into activating the ultimate Democrat doomsday machine — Mediscare.
Mediscare is, of course, deployed by the Democrat-MSM complex in every election cycle to terrify seniors with the claim that Republicans want to deprive them of health care. It was famously used against Paul Ryan, who proposed a premium support plan to help control Medicare spending. This heresy resulted in a TV ad showing a Ryan-lookalike throwing an old lady off a cliff. It is now being deployed against Carson pursuant to his proposal to gradually transition U.S. health care away from government-run programs to a system in which every American would have a Health Savings Account (HSA) supplemented by catastrophic coverage.
The latest roll-out of Mediscare began late last week when Politico ran an article titled, “Dr. Ben Carson’s prescription: Abolish Medicare.” This work of fiction begins by expanding on its hopelessly tendentious title: “Republicans have fended off accusations for years that they’d gut Medicare for seniors and end the program ‘as we know it.’ Not Ben Carson. The former neurosurgeon acknowledges he would abolish the program altogether.” Most of the piece is devoted not to the actual plan, but to the “risky” politics of Carson’s alleged position. Moreover, when it does discuss the proposal, it frequently misrepresents the details.
The piece also omits any perspective on why Dr. Carson has offered the plan at all. As its authors know perfectly well, it is not possible to evaluate any proposal to alter Medicare without some discussion concerning why so many plans to do so have been put forward in recent years — the program will soon “abolish” itself. As the latest Medicare Trustees report points out, Medicare will become insolvent in 2030 if left in its current form. So any honest article about anyone’s plan to “abolish Medicare” would note that maintaining the status quo is not a viable option, and explain why Carson or any other responsible leader must offer alternatives.
But the most outrageous feature of the Politico hit piece, a feature shared by the rapidly increasing number of the articles, blog posts, and broadcasts that parrot its accusations, is that it is based on a transparent lie. Carson has no plan to “abolish” Medicare. As he put it yesterday morning, when Chris Wallace asked him on Fox News Sunday if he would end the 50-year-old program, “That’s completely false. That’s a narrative someone’s putting out there to scare people.” Carson said his plan would use HSAs to eliminate the need for people to be dependent on government health care. “But I would never get rid of the programs.”
During the Fox interview, Carson also clarified a feature of his HSA plan that is frequently misrepresented by the media. Carson’s proposal doesn’t involve, as Politico claims, a $2,000 per year government deposit in everyone’s account. When Wallace included that misinformation in a question, Carson responded thus: “No, that’s the old plan.… The amount of money that we are already spending for health care in this country is astronomical.… If we take those same dollars and divert them into a system that gives you control over your health care, you and your health care provider cut out the middle man.… The dollars are already there, Chris.”
This is confusing to journalists, because they lack the imagination to think beyond the traditional fee-for-service system. Carson is saying that, instead of waiting until you get sick and visit a doctor, who must then file a claim with an insurance company or Medicare (i.e. the middle man), the same funds that go to your current coverage premiums would go to a tax-free HSA. Unspent funds left in that account at the end of the year would carry over to the next. Because most people don’t endure catastrophic medical events until middle age, these HSAs would quickly accumulate substantial balances over which patients would exercise full control.
Which brings us to another reason Carson focuses on the HAS — individual liberty. His proposal would wrest control of health care from government bureaucrats and return it to patients and doctors. It would permit individuals to contribute additional funds to their HSAs, and even allow the funds accumulated in an account to be shared with family members. Such a system would obviously be superior to a government-run behemoth that imposes all manner of red tape on providers, restricts the choices of patients, and perpetually teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. But it would also enormously reduce the power of the federal government.
This is what caused the Democrat-MSM complex to fire up Mediscare again. Dr. Carson’s basic HSA plan has been out there for a while. It’s not breaking news. The only reason for “news” outlets to suddenly start scrutinizing this particular plank of Carson’s platform is that their previous attacks have failed to slow his momentum. They desperately want to halt Carson’s rapidly increasing popularity with GOP voters before he wins the Republican presidential nomination. They know the polls indicate that Carson would beat Hillary Clinton in the general election if he is the GOP nominee. And this prospect obviously terrifies them.
Will Mediscare undo Carson? It has certainly been an effective weapon in the past, but not always. It failed when Jimmy Carter tried to use it against Ronald Reagan. In fact, it was Carter’s clumsy attempt to deploy it during their single debate that produced Reagan’s famous rejoinder, “There you go again.” Carson and Reagan don’t share many similarities. But, like the latter, Carson seems to be able to reach the voters despite the media. That’s a gift of no mean order. If it allows him to survive Mediscare, it may mean that he is unstoppable.