In a recent campaign ad, the Obama campaign claims Mitt Romney would “break [the] promise” of Medicare. The ad, seen below, cites myriad sources to back the claim.
Unfortunately, the ad never addresses the significant flaws in the President’s own health care law. Tea Party Patriots have spent the last two-and-a-half years working to overturn the law, but let’s look at some of its key components again:
1. Defenders of the Affordable Care Act claim its $716 billion cut in future Medicare spending isn’t a cut because the program’s budget still grows, just less quickly than it did before the Act became law. They use two arguments for this stance – first, that a cut in future spending isn’t a cut. Second, they note the cut is to providers, not patients.
Regarding the first claim, these defenders are being intellectually dishonest. Unlike most other federal programs, Medicare is governed by permanent laws that set spending based upon factors such as the number of people in the program and the cost of medical care. Unlike almost every other federal program, its budget is not approved by Congress. Thus, any cut to future spending is indeed a cut, not a spending reduction compared to future expectations.
Regarding where the cut hits, this too is a fallacious defense – while the cuts won’t hit patients directly, hitting providers means patients will suffer reduced access to care and other problems.
In short, the Affordable Care Act indeed cuts $716 billion from Medicare, and it will cause a great deal of harm to Medicare patients.
2. In order to reach a “deficit reduction” level of $109 billion in the newest Congressional Budget Office analysis of the law, the Affordable Care Act had to raise approximately $770 billion in taxes. To quote Charles Krauthammer:
Suppose someone – say, the president of United States – proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I’ve got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.
He’d be laughed out of town.
3. The law violates the First Amendment via the HHS Mandate, which forces religiously-affiliated institutions such as schools, adoption centers, and hospitals to provide insurance that covers (for “free”) sterilization, contraception and abortifacients…even if such coverage violates the principles of the organization.
4. As I noted shortly after the Supreme Court found the individual insurance mandate constitutional, the Affordable Care Act allows the government to violate the “free will” tradition Americans have always enjoyed under the Constitution.
5. And the most laughable part of the law, in relation to the ad? Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare’s Trust Fund will still go bankrupt in 2024, which strikes me as a clear violation of “the Medicare promise.”
Unlike Social Security, Medicare is a complicated system of public-private partnerships that has a long history of fraud, waste, and other inefficiencies. Most efforts to prevent its oncoming bankruptcy are rooted in theory, which allows the ad to make its claims. However, claiming that a premium-support plan will destroy “the Medicare promise” while campaigning on a law that will literally destroy this same promise is intellectually dishonest, to say the least.