Apparently, the Republicans believe that they can make a run for seniors by continuing to scare the hell out of them. It all started with Sarah Palin's "death panels" lie. Now, they are fueling the notion that the Democrats are a threat to Medicare -- even the conservatives have blasted Medicare and the notion of "public plans" for decades.
On Monday, the Republicans released a Bill of Rights for Seniors. RNC Chair Michael Steele also published an op-ed in the Washington Post that analyzes the Republicans' platform for seniors. Steele's op-ed simply regurgitates deceptive talking points that conservatives have circulated around the Internet since the beginning of healthcare reform debates. The GOP's "Bill of Rights for Seniors" is nothing but a "List of Lies."
Steele makes 5 broad points in his essay. Each one tells a different lie.
Lie #1: Democrats Want to Raid Medicare; Republicans Want to Save It
Steele argues that "[Obama] and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment." Steele's argument that Democrats are the opponents of Medicare while Republicans are fans of the plan is absolutely bogus.
Republicans have for a long time opposed Medicare. Ronald Reagan joined the American Medical Association's campaign against Medicare during the 1960s, describing the idea as "socialized medicine." Republicans have a long history of opposing "public plans" and describing them as socialism. Although Steele's op-ed does not admit this point, medicare is a public plan.
With respect to Medicare cuts, every major presidential candidate -- Democrat and Republican -- who proposed healthcare reform also advocated cutting Medicare costs. John McCain, for example, wanted to slash $1.3 trillion dollars from Medicare and Medicare over a ten-year period. Mitt Romney also frequently discussed the need to cut spending on entitlement programs, including Medicare.
Furthermore, Steele argues that the Democrats want to cut $500 billion from Medicare, but he neglects to discuss additional funding to the program that they have proposed. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that taking into consideration both cost cutting and increased spending, Obama's plan would trim $219 billion from Medicare over 10 years -- which is much less than Steele's figure and than what McCain proposed. Steele's analysis of this issue is hypocritical and factually inaccurate.
Lie #2: Healthcare Reform Gets in the Way of Seniors and Their Doctors
Steele shamelessly argues that: "The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded."
Although Steele paints a picture of a scary "government-run health-care experiment," he neglects to describe Medicare as a government-run health program. Under Medicare (and Medicaid and Veterans health plans), the government already determines what types of treatments are covered and the reimbursement for those procedures. Steele's argument describes a fantasy world where Medicare is presumably a private entity where doctors and patients can do whatever they want, unconstrained by governmental coverage decisions. Private insurance does not operate this way either. Steele is either ignorant or a liar. Neither option is good.
Also, Republicans strongly support the Hyde Amendment, which bans coverage of abortion for Medicaid recipients. Republicans, have in fact, demonized proposed healthcare reform by falsely stating that it would fund abortion services. This type of governmental intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship is apparently fine for Republicans. So, in addition to being ignorant or a liar, Steele is a hypocrite.
Lie #3: Obama Wants to Ration Care Based on Age
Steele says that care should not be rationed based on age. No version of healthcare reform proposed by any Democrat would do this. Steele is lying yet again.
Lie #4: Democrats Will Dictate End of Life Care for Seniors
Steele repeats the discredited "death panel" lie told by Sarah Palin and Charles Grassley. He claims that end-of-life care "becomes troublesome when the government gets involved." Perhaps that is true, but Steele's description of the Democrats' proposals is intentionally deceptive. The proposals would only compensate doctors who provide end-of-life counseling to patients. The proposals do not mandate the care.
This is the same thing as a governmental decision to pay for mammograms or a heart surgeries (which government insurance plans already do). Paying for treatment or counseling does not mandate it, nor does it get the government "involved" in the treatment. Steele is lying yet again.
Lie #5: Democrats Are Ending Veterans' Benefits
Steele argues that "we need to protect our veterans by preserving Tricare and other benefit programs for military families." He leaves the impression that Democrats want to discontinue these programs, but he can only state that some Democrats proposed raising premiums for Tricare -- which are far less than insurance premiums on the open market. Why? Tricare is a public plan -- the kind of government-sponsored plan that Republicans claim will lead to socialism, communism, and Armageddon.
Perhaps seniors could benefit from a "Bill of Rights." Unfortunately, the Republicans have only given them a pack of lies.