Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

You Can’t Handle the Truth!


Here is President Obama speaking earlier this week on the outskirts of Cleveland:

You know, the most insidious argument they’re making is the idea that somehow [Obamacare] would hurt Medicare. I know we’ve got some seniors here with us today. . . . But I want to tell you directly: This proposal adds almost a decade of solvency to Medicare. . . . And every senior should know there is no cutting of your guaranteed Medicare benefits. Period. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts.” This proposal makes Medicare stronger, it makes the coverage better, and it makes the finances more secure. And anybody who says otherwise is either misinformed — or they’re trying to misinform you. Don’t let them hoodwink you. They’re trying to hoodwink you.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), not known for hoodwinking, says that about 40 percent of Obamacare — about $1 trillion out of $2.5 trillion over the bill’s real first decade (2014 to 2023) — would be financed by diverting money out of Medicare. Over $200 billion of that would come from cuts in Medicare Advantage payments — about $21,000 per enrollee over those same ten years, according to the CBO. Taking nearly $1 trillion out of Medicare and spending it on Obamacare wouldn’t make Medicare more solvent — quite the opposite — and it wouldn’t extend Medicare’s solvency by ten years — or, for that matter, by ten months, ten days, or even ten minutes. 

There is one way, however, and only one way, that Obamacare might not reduce Medicare benefits — that is, if roughly 40 percent of Obamacare turns out to be unfunded. This president has already racked up more debt in two years than any previous president has in two terms, so this result would be believable. But in the same speech, he plainly said, “Our proposal is paid for.”  

I suspect the president was relying almost solely on one word, which few in the audience would even have noticed: “guaranteed.” Your “guaranteed benefits” wouldn’t be cut. But, if you aren’t eligible for the “Gator Aid” exception, your Medicare Advantage benefits would be cut. And another $700 billion would be cut out of the rest of Medicare, so your doctor — who already doesn’t get fully reimbursed for Medicare patients — might no longer agree to see or schedule you. Nevertheless, the president told seniors, “This proposal makes Medicare stronger, [and] it makes the coverage better.”

In selling Obamacare, President Obama seems to be guided by the statement made by Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth!” The Washington Post’s Robert Samuelson — an exceptionally evenhanded columnist — has written that “The disconnect between what president Obama says and what he’s doing is so glaring that most people could not abide it.” He adds, ”The miseducation has worsened as the debate approaches its climax.”

The American people deserve far better than Obamacare. But if that’s all they’re going to be offered (at least by the majority party), they at least deserve to have it offered to them in the full light of truth.


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