On Health Care, Clinton Skirts The Facts

(Editor’s Note: Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner will discuss the U.S. Supreme Court health care law decision impact at the 2012 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum on Friday, September 21 at the W Hotel in midtown Atlanta.) 

By Grace-Marie Turner

Former president Bill Clinton did a deep dive into policy last night during his keynote address to the Democratic National Convention, but he plays fast and loose with crucial facts on health care.

Grace-Marie Turner, President, Galen Institute

A few highlights:

First, both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion… But it’s not true…There were no cuts to benefits at all, none.

The key dodge is “no cuts to benefits.” It’s true there are no explicit cuts to benefits, and even some small additions, in Obamacare, but the real story is what the government will pay for those benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates there will be $716 billion in reductions in payments to Medicare providers in Obamacare. This definitely will have an impact on seniors’ access to benefits.

The chief Medicare actuary said the payment reductions could cause up to 40 percent of Medicare providers to become unprofitable over the long term — at which point they will have to stop treating Medicare patients or close their doors. Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare Advantage will reduce that program’s enrollment by half and cut plan choices by two-thirds — undermining the president’s promise that those who like their plan will be able to keep it under Obamacare.

Health expert Chris Jacobs concludes: “To follow Clinton’s statement to its logical conclusion, the President believes that 40 percent of Medicare providers going broke, and/or not treating Medicare patients, wouldn’t affect seniors’ health one whit — and that those 40 percent of providers aren’t making seniors any healthier now.”

Bottom line: Obamacare raids Medicare of $716 billion and uses it as a piggybank to pay for its massive new entitlement spending.

[President Obama added] eight years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. It’s now solvent until 2024. So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare, they strengthened it.

The CBO said that the Medicare reductions in Obamacare “will not enhance the ability of the government to pay for future Medicare benefits” because those savings will be used to fund the new health insurance entitlements. Even President Obama himself admitted in a 2010 interview, “You can’t say that you are saving on Medicare and then spending the money twice.”

But if Democrats want to use the Medicare savings provisions to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund — and not to fund the new entitlements created by the law — the CBO previously estimated the fiscal impact would be “a net increase in federal deficits of $260 billion” through 2019.

First, both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion . . . [and says later] that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that [Ryan] has in his own budget!

We have answered these charges here and hereThe Washington Post today fact-checks Clinton’s speech and, on this point, says the money is indeed “double counted” in Obamacare.

“The Medicare Trust Fund counts the health law’s $716 billion in savings as going back into its coffers. The Congressional Budget Office counts them as paying for provisions in the Affordable Care Act . . . In reality, it would be very, very hard for a Medicare dollar saved to achieve both these purposes. In fact, it would be impossible,” the Post concludes.

What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service.

This is an ambiguous statement. Mr. Clinton’s statement about the “commission of professionals” clearly could have been an endorsement of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the 15-member unelected, unaccountable rationing board that Republicans and many Democrats oppose. But a clarification today says he was referring to the existing, but much less powerful, Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which outlined the Medicare cuts that have already been outlined. This is worth watching, since President Obama is all in with the dreaded IPAB.

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