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Republican Medicare Hypocrisy

Posted by John McDonough  December 3, 2012 11:12 PM

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I don't like to use the word "hypocrisy" for anything. In this instance, I just can't think of another word that fits. See this clip is from an article in the DC newspaper, The Hill:

During the campaign, candidate Romney repeatedly hammered President Obama for cutting $716 billion from Medicare as part of his signature healthcare law. Romney pledged to repeal those cuts in a break from his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). 

Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman, had preserved Obama's Medicare cuts in two consecutive budget proposals that repealed the rest of the Affordable Care Act. Ryan is now back at work crafting his next budget, and Republicans on his committee say the $716 billion in Medicare cuts will likely survive.

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) said the $716 billion cut is part of the committee's over-arching plan to save and reform Medicare. He said he doesn't expect Ryan to back away from any part of that goal just because Romney was on a different page.

I have written numerous times about the Medicare savings/reductions in the Affordable Care Act, here, here, here, and here, for just a few. To appreciate the scope of this hypocrisy, bear with me.

In 2009 and 2010, as Democrats crafted the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare with zero Republican support, GOP senators and reps repeatedly attacked Democrats for reducing Medicare spending growth by $450 billion between 2010-19. After the law passed in March 2010, Republicans kept up the drumbeat right through the 2010 November elections when they took over the House of Representative with the highest level of votes from senior citizens in living memory because of their attacks on the Medicare cuts.

All's fair in love and war, bully for them.

But then, in the spring of 2011, the newly empowered House Republican majority put forward its first budget plan under the leadership of the new House Budget Chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. No surprise, the budget plan proposed total repeal of the ACA -- with one big exception, retaining the $450B in Medicare reductions in order to pay for the Ryan plan's tax cuts. The plan was put forward in the House and the Senate and nearly every Republican in both Chambers voted "aye." Again, in the spring of 2012, Ryan advanced a new budget plan with the same provisions: repeal the ACA except for the Medicare reductions.

Noteworthy to people like me, and very few others pay any attention.

By 2012, the estimated fiscal impact of the Medicare reductions had risen from $450B (2010-19) to $716B (2013-2022).

Then, in 2012, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney decides that attacking President Obama for the Medicare reductions is a good way to connect with senior citizens, and so that's what he does, promising that as President he will restore the $716B in Medicare reductions to health insurers and hospitals, and, in the process, shorten the life of the Medicare Trust Fund from 2024 to 2016. Then, in August, Mitt selects Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate...


Romney was campaigning against the ACA's Medicare reductions, the same ones that Paul Ryan had endorsed twice in his House budget plans, endorsed by nearly all his colleagues. What would they do?

Paul caved. He told the news media right away that he supported the agenda of the guy at the top of the ticket and now opposed all of the ACA's Medicare reductions, and even campaigned across the nation attacking President Obama for those same reductions.

And now?

Republicans on the House Budget Committee have announced that their forthcoming House budget plan will include ALL of the ACA's $716B in Medicare reductions.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me thrice, shame on Paul Ryan and the Republicans.

Fool me four times, shameless.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »


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