Fact Checking Republican Medicare Scare-Tactics
Where is the so-called liberal media?
Not too long ago, I pointed out the (more than) obvious lies of the Republican Party as it relates to Medicare and seniors. Just this past week, I was watching C-SPAN as the Senate debated and voted on a few amendments. In the course of events, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) led the charge as a number of Republican legislators demonstrated a politically common, but unfortunate, phenomenon coined as “doublethink”—that is to hold two contradictory realities to be simultaneously true. It is either this, or they are consciously and flagrantly lying. There are no other possibilities. So here we go again…
Senator McCain introduced an amendment to send the health care reform legislation back to the Senate Finance Committee with instructions to remove $491 billion in Medicare cuts. He said on the floor:
Madame President, simply put, this motion to commit would be a requirement that we eliminate the half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts that is envisioned by this bill. A half a trillion dollars in cuts that are unspecified as to how, and a half a trillion dollars in cuts that would directly impact the health care of citizens in this country. … All of these are cuts in the obligations that we have assumed and are the rightful benefits that people have earned. … I will eagerly look forward to hearing from the authors of this legislation as to how they can possibly achieve a half a trillion dollars in cuts without impacting existing Medicare programs negatively and eventually lead to rationing of health care in this country. That is what this motion is all about. This motion is to eliminate those unwarranted cuts.
Surely under some sort of self-hypnosis, Senator McCain cannot conceive of how the Democrats can remove half a trillion dollars from Medicare without “negatively” impacting Medicare and “leading to rationing of care.” Senator McCain said this with a straight face even though in October 2008, the McCain campaign announced that he would finance his health care plan with “major reductions to Medicare and Medicare cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years.” This would inevitably reduce these programs by as much as 20% in 10 years and cut into benefits.
Senator McCain voted (with a number of Democrats) for a series of Medicare cuts in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The legislation called for a decrease in Medicare spending by 12.7% over 10 years and instituted the kind of payment updates that the Senate health care bill is now recommending. Therefore, the Republicans have chosen to lie (and badly at that) and insist that the Democrats are out to “get” grandma rather than virtuously arguing, with great credibility and as much political potency, that the Democrats have stolen from their playbook and are, more or less, conceding that a Republican idea has been a great idea all along. Under Republican leadership such a thing could have been achieved long ago, they could argue, which only shows that the Democrats don’t make good leaders. They’re over a decade behind, the argument could go. Instead they are promoting “senior scare” with FactCheck.org calling their claims false.
Prior to the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, the GOP sought to cut 14% from projected Medicare spending over seven years and shuffle millions of elderly recipients into managed health care programs, or HMOs. Then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaking about Medicare to a Blue Cross Blue Shield conference on October 24, 1995, said “Now, we don’t get rid of it in round one because we don’t think that that’s politically smart, and we don’t think that’s the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it—voluntarily.” [New York Times, 7/20/1996] Such words are light years away from the current rhetoric that seniors “love” their Medicare and those anti-elderly Democrats ought to stop trying to destroy the program.
If it is true that seniors “love” their Medicare as I have heard one Republican congressman assert, then he must be proud that his party did not succeed when the majority of Senate Republicans voted against the Senate passage of Medicare and the final conference report.[Congressional Record, 7/9/1965; Social Security Administration, accessed 12/6/2009].
It also must be remembered that Senator Curtis (R-NE) voiced GOP opposition to Medicare in 1965 stating, “[Medicare] is not needed. It is socialism. It moves the country in a direction which is not good for anyone, whether they be young or old. It charts a course from which there will be no turning back….It is not only socialism – it is brazen socialism.” With all the rhetoric about the Democratic Party’s “galloping” socialistic economic policies, it is inconceivable that any principled Republican would not support gutting Medicare once and for all; moreover, the GOP’s own beloved President Reagan focused on cutting Medicare by cutting benefits, in particular through increased cost-sharing for Medicare and Medicaid recipients. In fact, during the Reagan Administration, Republican Senator Gramm argued that significant cuts to Medicare would not affect beneficiaries, saying, “People are confused because when you say ‘Medicare’ you think of mama…Don’t think of mama, think of doctors and hospitals.” [United Press International, 11/5/85]
This trend continued into the Bush Administration. In 1992 the GOP-controlled White House introduced a plan calling for increases in premiums and co-pays for which seniors were financially responsible as well as increases in private insurance premiums for supplementary Medicare policies. Such changes the CBO estimated would have increased senior spending on health care from 7% of their incomes to nearly 12% by 1997.
Years later, Senator Bob Dole boasted to the American Conservative Union while campaigning for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare…because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” [Washington Post, 10/26/1995]
In the past decade alone, Republicans lawmakers have voted against protecting or strengthening Medicare nearly 60 times. [Senate Roll Call Votes, Congressional Record, 2008: S.V. 169, S.V. 160, S.V. 149; 2007: S.V. 132; 2006: S.V. 71, S.V. 50, S.V. 49, S.V. 5; 2005: S.V. 342, S.V. 302, S.V. 297, S.V. 294, S.V. 287, S.V. 60; 2003: S.V. 259, S.V. 258, S.V. 257, S.V. 254, S.V. 253, S.V. 251, S.V. 250, S.V. 249, S.V. 246, S.V. 245, S.V. 244, S.V. 242, S.V. 241, S.V. 240, S.V. 239, S.V. 236, S.V. 234, S.V. 233, S.V. 232, S.V. 230, S.V. 229, S.V. 227, S.V. 173, S.V. 82, S.V. 63, S.V. 21; 2002: S.V. 199, S.V. 186; 2001: S.V. 137, S.V. 122, S.V. 117, S.V. 66; 2000: S.V. 206, S.V. 195, S.V. 186, S.V. 162, S.V. 144, S.V. 65, S.V. 53; 1999: S.V. 229, S.V. 79, S.V. 76, S.V. 66, S.V. 59]
Just last year, the Senate overrode President Bush’s veto of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008. All the Senators voting to support President Bush’s veto were Republican. [S.V. 177, 7/15/2008] It is even more telling that all Senators voting against cloture on the legislation to begin with, except for the Minority Leader for procedural reasons, were Republicans—three times [S.V. 169, 7/9/2008]; S.V. 160, 6/26/2008 and S.V. 149, 6/12/2008 – Leader voted against cloture as required by the Senate rules]. Most telling, just this year the Republican budget proposal introduced in the House would have virtually abolished Medicare as we know it.
Somehow, someway despite all the irrefutable evidence—the obvious historical opposition of the Republican Party to Medicare—Senators Alexander, Coburn, Crapo, Enzi, McCain, and McConnell spoke on the Senate floor this past Thursday advocating the McCain amendment that ultimately failed during a floor vote. One might suggest that we regularly test our Senators for self-hypnosis, Alzheimer’s, amnesia, or all three because a quick glance at their Medicare voting record makes one question how these gentleman could not have some sort of intellectual schizophrenia? The only other logical explanation is that they are lying and they are well aware of it. Though one would think they would at least try to lie more convincingly. Despite their rhetoric, these Republican Senators have:
Voted To Cut Medicare By $6.4 Billion. Senators Alexander, Coburn, Crapo, Enzi, McCain, and McConnell all voted in favor of the budget reconciliation bill that cut funding for Medicare by $6.4 billion by requiring that beneficiaries purchase medical equipment and cutting payments to home health care providers. The motion passed 50-50, with Vice President Cheney casting the deciding vote. [S. 1932, Vote #363, 12/21/05]
Cut $5.78 Billion From Medicare. Senators Alexander, Coburn, Crapo, Enzi, McCain, and McConnell all voted in favor of passage of a Fiscal Year 2006 Budget Resolution that would cut $5.78 billion from Medicare. The legislation passed 52-47. [S. 1932, Vote #303, 11/3/05]
Tabled An Amendment That Would Have Given The Sickest Seniors $12 Billion In Medicare Funding. Senators Alexander, Crapo, Enzi, McCain, and McConnell all voted to table an amendment that would have allocated $12 billion for additional treatment for Medicare beneficiaries with cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and disabilities. The motion to table passed 57-41. [S. 1, Vote #253, 6/26/03]
Voted To Put Needs Of Wealthy Americans Over The Needs Of American Seniors. Senators Alexander, Crapo, Enzi, McCain, and McConnell all voted against an amendment that would reduce the enormous tax cut given to the wealthiest American tax payers in order to give a fair reimbursement to rural health care providers under Medicare. The amendment failed. [SCR 23, Vote #89, 3/25/03]
Voted Against Increasing Medicare And Medicaid Funding By $4.1 Billion. Senators Alexander, Crapo, Enzi, McCain, and McConnell all voted against a measure which would have increased funding for health care programs under Medicare and Medicaid by $4.1 billion. The motion was rejected 41-56. [HJR 2, Vote #21, 1/23/03]
Voted In Favor Of Cutting Medicare Nearly $160 Billion Over Six Years. Senators McCain and McConnell voted to cut Medicare by $158.1 billion over six years. First – the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 1997 Budget Resolution that contained the cut and, Second – the same cut in the conference report. Both passed 53-46. [H.C.R. 178, Vote #156, 5/23/1996; H.C.R. 178, Vote #159, 6/13/96]
- Budget Cuts Included Reductions In Medicare, Medicare, Welfare, And Discretionary Spending. Senators McCain and McConnell voted in favor of adopting of the conference report on the concurrent resolution to establish a six-year plan to balance the federal budget by 2002. Projected spending cuts over six years include $158.1 billion in Medicare, $72 billion from Medicaid, $53 billion from welfare and $297.9 billion from discretionary spending. The conference report passed 53-46. [HCR 178, Vote #159, 6/13/96]
Cut $270 Billion From Medicare. Senators McCain and McConnell voted in favor of a budget that would cut Medicare by $270 billion. The budget passed. [H.R. 2491, Vote #584, 11/17/1995; H.R. 2491, Vote #556, 10/27/1995; H.C.R. 67, Vote #296, 6/29/95]
Voted Against Reducing Medicare Cuts By $181 Billion In Favor Of Tax Cuts For The Wealthy. Senators McCain and McConnell voted against a motion reducing cuts to Medicare by $181 billion by reducing tax cuts for upper income taxpayers. The motion was rejected 46-53. [S. 1357, Vote #499, 10/26/95]
Voted To Maintain Tax Cuts Instead Of Reducing Medicare Cuts By $100 Billion. Senators McCain and McConnell voted against an amendment to reduce by $100 billion the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid by reducing tax cuts. The amendment failed 46-52. [S.C.R. 13, Vote #173, 5/22/95]
Voted To Preserve Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Instead Of Reducing Medicare Cuts By $181 Billion. Senators McCain and McConnell voted against a motion reducing cuts to Medicare by $181 billion by reducing tax cuts for upper income taxpayers. The motion was rejected 46-53. [S 1357, Vote #499, 10/26/95]
Voted Against Increasing Medicare Payments To Hospitals By $4.5 Billion. Senators McCain and McConnell voted against an amendment restoring $4.5 billion in payments under Medicare to hospitals that treat a disproportionate share of poor patients. The amendment failed 47-52. [S 1357, Vote #524, 10/27/95]
Voted In Favor Of Cutting $296 Billion From Medicare. Senators McCain and McConnell voted to adopt the conference report on the fiscal 1996 budget resolution to put in place a seven-year plan to balance the budget by 2002 by cutting projected spending by $894 billion, including cuts of $270 billion from Medicare, $182 billion from Medicaid, $190 billion in non-defense spending, and $175 billion from various entitlement programs such as welfare. The conference report was agreed to 54-46. [HCR 67, Vote #296, 6/29/95]
If the “new” GOP is correct and the Democratic health care proposal will require seniors to pay a steeper price and will have their treatment options reduced, or worse, rationed, very well then. If this it is the case, Senator Coburn (R-OK) is correct to say to seniors, “You’re going to die sooner.” But if that argument is valid, it is rightly assumed that if the Republicans had their way up until this point, those same seniors would already be dead—with the help of Senator Coburn’s vote.