What Obama Doesn’t Get About Medicare

Sen. Ron Johnson on how Democrats are destroying the program—and how Republicans are trying to save it.

08.22.12 8:45 AM ET

Since the president unleashed Obamacare on the American people, former senator Tom Daschle has been one of its most ardent defenders. Now, as more and more Americans discover that Obamacare is funded by more than $700 billion taken from Medicare, Senator Daschle is once again rushing to the program’s defense. Unfortunately for him, it’s hard to argue with the facts.

In a piece published in The Daily Beast, Senator Daschle does his best to argue in support of Obamacare and the president’s approach to Medicare. But before we talk about what Senator Daschle gets wrong, let’s point to what he gets right.

Medicare is on an unsustainable path. If we do nothing, it will become insolvent and the nation will no longer be able to fulfill its commitment to the seniors of each generation. Yet, for too long, Democrats have used Medicare as a political football. Even as the march to Medicare bankruptcy has continued, they have refused to address the problem. That Senator Daschle is now willing to admit publicly what we’ve all known for quite a while is at least a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, Senator Daschle then proceeds straight into Obama campaign talking points, attacking proposals that no one is making and making claims about Obamacare that are impossible to support.

Let’s clear the air about the Romney-Ryan plan. For any American over 55, nothing changes. The government made a promise to those seniors, and it’s a promise that Governor Romney and Paul Ryan intend on making sure is kept.

For those who are younger than 55, the Romney-Ryan plan implements reforms that introduce more competition and choice into Medicare to strengthen the program for future generations. Throughout our nation’s history, we’ve seen choice and competition do more to reduce cost and improve quality than any other force. They can do the same for Medicare. Governor Romney will also root out the waste that has plagued Medicare from its inception, and his proposals for replacing Obamacare with genuine health-care reform will bring down costs throughout the system while accelerating the innovation that leads to new cures.

This plan stands in stark contrast to the approach of President Obama, the one endorsed by Senator Daschle. As with most things, it seems, the president sees the solution to Medicare as rooted in bigger government and more bureaucratic control. President Obama has preached—and Senator Daschle seems to believe—that Obamacare, with its maze of new regulations and raft of new taxes, will bring down medical costs. It’s a claim that has been proven false already, and even the Medicare actuary has stated publicly that Obamacare will do little to control rising expenses.

Moreover, President Obama’s approach to cost control goes beyond simply believing that more government will (for perhaps the first time ever) lead to more efficiency. He’s also established something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This panel of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats is in charge of developing new ways to cut Medicare spending that will eventually lead to the rationing of care to seniors.

Fewer choices and less care for seniors: that’s the essence of President Obama’s plan.

The ultimate proof that President Obama doesn’t have the best interests of Medicare in mind is the $700 billion he took from the program to pay for his health-care overhaul. Over the last week, we’ve seen Democrats falling all over themselves to explain these cuts. Some have championed them, with members of the president’s reelection campaign calling the reductions an achievement. Others have engaged in verbal gymnastics to act as though the cuts aren’t really cuts.

But whatever we want to call them, the effects are undeniable. More than half of doctors say they will have to restrict or end their care for seniors. Fifteen percent of hospitals, nursing facilities, and home health agencies will become unprofitable and potentially close. And perhaps worst of all, 4 million seniors will lose the Medicare plans they current rely on to pay for their health care.

For Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the situation is plain and the answer is simple. President Obama takes $700 billion that was meant for Medicare and throws it into the abyss that is Obamacare. If Governor Romney and Paul Ryan are elected, Obamacare is repealed and the Medicare funding goes back into the Medicare program, where it belongs.

Obama-Biden have cut Medicare. Romney-Ryan will reverse those cuts. Obama-Biden have no plan for the long-term sustainability of Medicare. Romney-Ryan have put forward a bold proposal to strengthen the program for future generations. That leaves only one choice before Americans this fall: do we want a strengthened and reinvigorated Medicare, or do we want Obamacare? We can’t have both.