February 14, 2013 by Nash Riggins
Senator Marco Rubio’s rushed response to last night’s State of the Union Address was jam-packed with plenty of valid concerns regarding President Obama’s upcoming agenda; however, last night Mr Rubio illustrated once more that one of his biggest gripes with the President – and by association, one of the Republican Party’s biggest gripes with the President – is built upon factual inaccuracies.
According to Senator Rubio, President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act has effectively “bankrupt” Medicare – the national social insurance programme that extends health insurance to America’s elderly and most in need.
“The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programmes where spending is already locked in. One of these programs, Medicare, is especially important to me. It provided my father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care my mother receives now,” Mr Rubio said last night. “I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favour of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now is in favour of bankrupting it.”
It doesn’t take a politician to realise that, by “anyone”, Mr Rubio is clearly referring to Barack Obama and the Democrats. This assertion that Obamacare has effectively signed Medicare’s death warrant has become one of critics’ top grievances with President Obama’s healthcare legacy – and if it were true, would certainly merit receiving some flak over. So, is it?
The short answer is no, but let’s back-track a bit.
Under Obamacare, Congress voted to reduce Medicare’s projected spending by $500b over the next 10 years – rather than one big chunk. Why the big cuts? They were aimed at eliminating wasteful elements of Medicare, such as the Medicare Advantage programme. This expensive, and subsequently obsolete, programme was an optional system set up under President Bush in which senior citizens could opt to enrol in a private insurance program, and in turn the federal government would take on a portion of their premiums. For those of us who understand how Obamacare works, such programmes are now completely pointless.
Healthcare experts have testified before Congress that such changes to Medicare will in no way affect quality or range of care. What’s more, in passing the Affordable Healthcare Act, Congress didn’t vote to cut Medicare spending, but merely to cut its rate of growth. In fact, Medicare spending will actually continue to increase over the next ten years – growing from $499b in 2009 to $929b in 2020.
Mr Rubio’s claims that Obamacare did not change Medicare – and will subsequently leave it penniless – are utterly false. Indeed, the changes this act has implemented have actually added years of solvency to Medicare funding. Sure, the Hospital Trust Fund – one of Medicare’s most crucial aspects – will start bleeding cash if Congress doesn’t act in the next 5 years; however, this is a recurring issue that Congress has always solved in a swift and unpartisan manner.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of Rubio’s assertion that Democrats wish to “bankrupt” Medicare by way of $500b in gradual spending cuts is unsettling. Why? Because Rubio supported the same level of cuts to Medicare over roughly the same period by voting in favour of Paul Ryan’s budget plan.
Under Ryan’s plan, funding for Medicare would continue to grow over the next 10 years – and Mr Ryan would have Medicare’s rate of growth substantially decreased. Finally, just as the Affordable Health Care Act mandated, Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan would allow for long-term Medicare spending cuts of $500b by eliminating obsolete programmes. In effect, both the Republicans and Democrats voted to do the exact same thing to Medicare at different times – so why argue any different, Mr Rubio?
Medicare costs a lot of money, and Senator Rubio is absolutely correct that it is one of America’s “biggest problems” where balancing the budget is concerned. Yet because so many individuals such as Senator Rubio’s mother live or die by this piece of socialist legislature, it will never be allowed to dissipate. Accordingly, both Democrats and Republicans should note that Medicare is not a way to win an argument as to why the other party wants to ‘destroy America’. No, Mr Rubio – no one in America wants Medicare to go bankrupt, and neither party will allow that to happen. Find a new gripe, because this one is utterly false.