In an online discussion today, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon equates current Republican claims that President Obama wants to cut Medicare with mid-1990s Democratic criticism of Republicans for trying to do so. But the situations are far different: Multiple independent observers have made clear that current health care reform efforts wouldn't cut Medicare benefits or increase out-of-pocket costs, while the GOP's mid-1990s cuts would have done so.
Las Cruces, NM: Much of the angst about the Health Care reform is voiced by seniors worried about changes to Medicare (Obama has repeatedly said that savings must come from Medicare). If you recall, in the '80's and '90's Republicans wanted to cut the rise in Medicare costs and were vilified (sometimes with very obvious lies, for instance - calling a reduction in increased funding "funding cuts") Is there any irony that Obama is now being vilified for the same reasons? I remember some pretty irresponsible t.v. ads, especially during the Reagan/Bush years.
Perry Bacon Jr.: Yes, the way this issue has flipped is interesting. I wrote a piece about the Republicans that ran Sunday and I quoted ex-Bush aide David Frum complaining about how his party is making the kinds of attacks on Medicare that Democrats once did. Michael Steele has an op-ed in our paper attacking Obama on this issue, much as President Clinton did of Dole in the 1996 campaign. I do think the president's team has a major problem with seniors and has to get them behind the reform effort.
Here's FactCheck.org: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum."
And AARP: "Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.:
By contrast, here's a New York Times description of the Republicans' 1995 efforts to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare:
The Senate and House bills seek to save the same amount of money, cutting projected Medicare spending by $270 billion, or 14 percent, over seven years.
Senate Republicans would impose more of a burden on Medicare beneficiaries, increasing the annual deductible for doctors' fees as well as the monthly premium that beneficiaries pay for coverage of doctors' and outpatient services. House Republicans have said they will increase only the premium, not the deductible.
Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries must pay the first $100 of costs incurred each year for doctors' services. The Senate would increase the annual deductible to $150 in 1996 and would raise it by $10 in each of the following six years. The deductible, set originally at $50, has been increased only three times in the history of Medicare. The last increase, to $100 from $75, occurred in 1991.
Senate Republican aides said the $270 billion of savings would be achieved in these ways: Beneficiaries would contribute $70 billion, through higher premiums and deductibles. About $150 billion would be extracted from hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and other providers of health care.
Another key difference? Bob Dole, who helped lead the GOP's effort to cut $270 billion from Medicare, had voted against creating Medicare in 1965, and had bragged about that vote in 1995: "I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare -- one of twelve -- because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965."