Democrats demagogue Medicare
Medicare is headed for bankruptcy faster than expected. On May 13, the program’s trustees released their annual report, concluding the government’s oldage health-insurance program will go bankrupt in 2024. Last year’s report predicted it could last until 2029. There is no more time for delay. As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said at the Economic Club of Chicago yesterday, “If we succumb to this view that our problems are bigger than we are — if we surrender more control over our economy to the governing class — then we are choosing shared scarcity over renewed prosperity, and managed decline over economic growth.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said the report showed “the need to act sooner rather than later to make reforms to our entitlement programs.” This is empty rhetoric. The Obama administration hasn’t proposed a single, real legislative initiative to reform the Medicare system. Instead of getting serious, Democrats are falling back on scare tactics. On May 12, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi railed, “100 percent of the ‘yes’ votes to abolish Medicare were cast by the Republicans, every Democrat voted ‘no.’ ” Mrs. Pelosi referred to the GOP plan as a vote to “end Medicare as we know it” and “to undermine one of the pillars of security for America’s seniors.”
Fear-mongering aside, the plan crafted by Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, is the first serious attempt to keep Medicare solvent and slow the runaway costs contributing to the federal debt crisis. His idea is to shift Medicare from a government-run health care plan to a “premium support system” through which the government subsidizes private insurance policies. Taking the government out of direct payments for health care bills would slow the drastic upward trajectory in government spending on Medicare. Mr. Ryan has made clear his reform wouldn’t affect anyone over the age of 55 (going into effect in 2022). That means there’s absolutely nothing for seniors to worry about. Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked the House-backed reform package. House Speaker John A. Boehner responded to Mrs. Pelosi’s political games on Medicare by citing the urgent need for “America to get its fiscal house in order.” The nation’s current public debt is $14.3 trillion, and the statutory debt ceiling was hit on May 16. “If we don’t do anything, seniors are going to see cuts,” the speaker said. “No one wants to see cuts in these programs. We’ve got to make real changes to put them on a sound fiscal foundation.” By playing politics and resisting fiscal reality, Democrats are putting the health of seniors — and the nation — at risk.