"All In Perspective" column, week of August 20.
As with every presidential election, Democrats are ardently working the ‘scare grandma’ angle this year. In Florida, they have been running commercials depicting GOP Congressman Allen West punching an elderly woman in the face, and now that Congressman Paul Ryan has joined the Romney ticket, swing states will be treated to television spots depicting a Ryan look-alike pushing a wheelchair-bound grandma off a cliff. These completely over-the-top ads are clearly designed to distract voters from the fact that the Obama agenda has been anything but good for America’s seniors.
For starters, although Team Obama wants seniors to think Republicans hate your grandma, it is the President’s health care legislation that takes$716 billion from Medicare to pay for new Obamacare entitlements. Furthermore, even though Medicare is projected to reach insolvency by 2024, the new so-called Medicare payroll tax hikes won’t be used to shore up Medicare at all, but rather to offset other ObamaCare costs. In the meantime, Obama’s plan to underpay doctors and hospitals for Medicare services will effectively force many providers to drop Medicare patients altogether.
While proponents argue that ObamaCare helps seniors, fiscal realities and the underlying philosophy of the plan do not bode well for older Americans. The President has admitted that government will have to limit health care spending and make some difficult decisions. In 2009 he told Jane Sturm that her elderly mother might be better off taking painkillers rather than receiving life-saving treatment. While many were shocked by his callousness, Obama’s statement was consistent with the approach taken by his top health care advisor Ezekiel Emmanuel. Dr. Emmanuel has long argued that health care resources should be prioritized for individuals aged 15 to 40 years, while care for the very young and those over 50 should be “attenuated.”
Supposedly, overt health care rationing is prohibited under ObamaCare, but the new law also creates a special government panel to oversee costs. This so-called IndependentPayment Advisory Board (IPAB) will issue “legislative proposals” to control Medicare spending, and the board has been granted extensive powers. If Congress fails to act on an IPAB “proposal,” the law requires Health and Human Services to implement the proposal anyway. In reality, if IPAB decides to grossly underpay for procedures for elderly Medicare patients, those services will become largely unavailable to individuals above the ‘optimum age.’ The result will be back-door rationing for Medicare-dependent seniors.
By contrast, the Ryan budget plan, described by at least one Democrat as “sensible” and “honest,” preserves current Medicare provisions for individuals 55 and older. In addition, his proposal allows America’s future seniors to choose among plans, including the option to avoid government-run health care altogether. This approach, of course, is a complete reversal of the Democrat plan to gradually shift the entire nation onto a ‘single-payer-system’ where government controls health care for all Americans.
While Team Obama hopes very much to gain electoral advantage by misleading on Medicare, the reality is that the Ryan’s plan is far better for both seniors and the nation as a whole. Even so, the most important electoral issue for 2012 is still the economy. Under Barack Obama’s leadership, there are fewer jobs, higher energy prices, and both individuals and businesses are bracing for Obama’s ‘Taxmageddon’ beginning next year. These issues affect everyone, seniors included.