In a July 8 New York Post op-ed, John Podhoretz advanced the false claim that Donald Berwick's recess appointment is "unprecedented," and that Obama is making the appointment "absent a controversy, ugly political battle or contentious confirmation hearing." As Media Matters has noted, the right-wing media has manufactured a controversy surrounding Berwick's confirmation by distorting comments he has made about the U.S. and U.K. health care systems. However, despite the suggestion that Berwick is a controversial, radical pick, he has support from both conservatives and health care experts. From the New York Post:
On Tuesday, the Obama administration decided to do something rather peculiar, somewhat shocking and politically fascinating: It circumvented the process by which the Senate advises and consents on executive-branch nominees.
The move, which seems unprecedented in subtle but important ways, promises increased chaos in Washington -- but also hope on health care.
President Obama wants a distinguished doctor named Donald Berwick to head up the office that administers Medicare and Medicaid -- two of the most expensive programs in the federal government. Ordinarily, the nomination would have gone through the process known as "confirmation," with a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee followed by a full vote of all 99 senators. (One seat is vacant due to the death of West Virginia's Robert Byrd.)
Instead, Obama decided to invoke his constitutional authority to appoint Berwick (and two other officials of lesser moment) to his post without having to be confirmed by the Senate. This is possible only when Congress is not in session, as is the case right now, and it's called a "recess appointment." It is designed to be temporary; it is valid only until that session of the Congress adjourns, which in this case will come at year's end.
That's what makes the administration's decision unprecedented in my nearly 30 years of closely following politics: I can't recall a preemptive decision to make a recess appointment absent a controversy, ugly political battle or contentious confirmation hearing.
And that's especially true when there's no indication there will be an effort to filibuster, which Democrats would likely have been able to override. (Berwick's credentials as a Harvard muckety-muck would have given the two Maine Republican moderate senators more than enough leeway to let him pass.)
Fox's Peter Johnson, Jr. continued to push smears of Donald Berwick, Obama's nominee to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, by distorting Berwick's comments on redistribution, the British NHS and rationing after they had been shown to be innocuous.
This week on his Fox News program, Glenn Beck is laying out "The Plan," a series of proposals he has developed with the assistance of conservative think tanks for "slashing the budget," which he claims is necessary for the United States "to survive."
Today, Beck looked at Medicare and Social Security:
Beck also teased tomorrow's portion of "The Plan": "Tomorrow ... we abolish the Department of Education."
From the March 30 edition of Fox News' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
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From a March 26 Fox Business network promotion for Stossel:
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by radiologist Mark E. Klein criticizing President Obama over the Medicare board's decision not to cover virtual colonoscopies. But Klein performs virtual colonoscopies at his Washington, D.C.-area practice, and the Journal did not disclose his interest in whether Medicaid covers them.
From the January 27 edition of Fox News' Beck:
From the GOP's November 5 anti-health care reform protest:
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From the October 15 edition of Citadel Media's The Mark Levin Show:
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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."
Sean Hannity falsely claimed that the Mayo Clinic "slam[med]" President Obama's health care plan. In fact, the Mayo Clinic did not criticize Obama's health care proposal, and indeed applauded the administration's suggested revisions to the House bill to address Medicare payment rates.
The Washington Times reported that the Mayo Clinic is "joining the growing chorus of critics" of the Obama administration's health care reform proposal, and a Fox Nation headline falsely claimed, "Mayo Clinic Rebukes Obama's Rationing." But the Mayo Clinic did not criticize Obama's health care proposal, and indeed applauded suggested revisions by the administration to the House bill.
Here's the Washington Post editorial page chief:
Broadly speaking, we know how to insure most Americans: Order them to get insurance, help pay for those who can't afford it and tell insurance companies to enroll anyone who asks.
Hiatt doesn't seem to have even considered using either the Veterans Health Administration or Medicare as a model instead. Which is odd, since they already exist and, by most accounts, work rather well.
Hiatt goes on to complain about the cost of health care reform -- which makes his refusal to consider other models all the more odd. After all, the Lewin Group has found that Rep. Pete Stark's proposal, for example, would produce the greatest overall savings:
Though Rep. Stark's AmeriCare bill is the most expensive to the federal government, it provides the biggest overall health savings, lowering projected national expenditures by $58 billion (Figure ES-4). It achieves this by significantly lowering the costs of insurance administration by covering most people through a program like Medicare, which has substantially lower administrative costs than private insurance.
So even as Hiatt portrays universal health care as too expensive, he ignores proposals that would do the most to cut costs.
Morning Joe just hosted Pete Peterson, giving him an opportunity to plug his book and spread his doom and gloom about "entitlement reform." As usual, the reporters present treated Peterson as though he is a Yoda, the Dalai Lama, and their grandfather all in one.
Nobody, for example, asked Peterson about his opposition to health care reform in the early 1990s ("The issue is whether we can afford it. We can't.") Since then, health care costs have skyrocketed, taking Medicare costs with them. So the failure of health care reform in 1993/1994 not only resulted in tens of millions of Americans going without health care for the past 15 years, it also contributed to the soaring Medicare spending that Pete Peterson insists is a crisis.
All of which suggests a second question somebody should probably ask Peterson: Why should we listen to you?
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