As Yuval Levin reminds us, President Obama acknowledged that Medicare is in dire financial straits last July: “If you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.”
But Team Obama has made attacking Romney-Ryan on Medicare a centerpiece of its campaign, despite the fact that the White House hasn’t proposed an alternative plan to put the program on a sustainable path.
Here’s Jake Tapper confronting White House press secretary Jay Carney on this issue in today’s briefing:
Does the president believe Medicare is on sustainable path?
The president believes, and knows, and others have judged it so, that the Affordable Care Act that he fought for and Congress passed into law extends the life of Medicare by eight years, the solvency of Medicare by 8 years. He knows that, as outside experts have made clear, that if ACA is repealed as Republican leaders have ardently expressed the desire to do, Medicare’s insolvency will come 8 years sooner. That’s an irrefutable fact. He knows that as said in discussions, debates, proposals about steps to get our fiscal house in order, through a balanced approach of reducing our deficit, that we need to make additional reforms that protect beneficiaries but make sure that Medicare remains in place as Medicare, not a voucher system.
[W]e haven’t seen any proposal to make Medicare sustainable. Say what you will about the Ryan plan or Romney plan – I know you disagree with it – but it does look forward. Where is the president’s plan?
I think what the President said in this briefing room remains true today and in the budget proposal he put forward this year, which has additional savings out of federal healthcare spending. But what it does not do is attempt to get our fiscal house in order by placing the entire burden on the disabled or poor families with children . . . [T]he thing is we don’t have to do that. The president’s plan, other balanced plans that have been put forward, demonstrate that you do not have to do that. . . . if you’re willing to on the other side make some compromises that everyone should pay their fair share.
So you’re saying the president’s Medicare plan is contained in his budget?
The president has put forward additional savings in health-care programs, not by cuts in benefits but savings from providers and insurance companies . . .
That’s not really in itself a solution to Medicare.
I’m not saying that ends the discussion about our fiscal challenges, but it does achieve the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that we need and does it in a balanced way that includes savings in health care reform.
Of course, Carney’s evasions make sense if you recall Treasury Secretary Geithner’s more candid exchange with Paul Ryan last year: “You are right to say we’re not coming before you today to say ‘we have a definitive solution to that long term problem.’ What we do know is, we don’t like yours.”