As you may have read or heard, the health reform legislation cuts Medicare by about $500 billion. What this means, exactly, is up for grabs. The conservative opposition to the cuts is clearly a political ploy, since they’ve been trying to destroy Medicare for decades. But even I get my hackles up when I hear that more than half of the health care reform’s $940 billion cost is being covered by cuts to Medicare, while the drug and insurance companies get a free ride (or in fact, a boost).
A closer look, however, reveals that a lot of the cuts are to private Medicare Advantage plans, which I’ve long opposed as a mammoth rip-off. The legislation’s supporters swear it won’t compromise benefits, and the Medicare Rights Center (which I trust a lot more than I do AARP) is all for it.
I’ll be writing more about this in the future–but for now, Factcheck.org, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s project that aims to straighten out some of the more egregious misconceptions about public policy, lays out the basics:
Whether these are “cuts” or much-needed “savings” depends on the political expedience of the moment, it seems. When Republican Sen. John McCain, then a presidential candidate, proposed similar reductions to pay for his health care plan, it was the Obama camp that attacked the Republican for cutting benefits. Whatever you want to call them, it’s a $500 billion reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits. It’s true that those who get their coverage through Medicare Advantage’s private plans (about 22 percent of Medicare enrollees) would see fewer add-on benefits; the bill aims to reduce the heftier payments made by the government to Medicare Advantage plans, compared with regular fee-for-service Medicare. The Democrats’ bill also boosts certain benefits: It makes preventive care free and closes the “doughnut hole,” a current gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors.