The Corner

N.H.’s Shaheen Claims Obamacare’s $853 Billion in Cuts to Medicare Are Imaginary

In last night’s debate in New Hampshire between U.S. Senate candidates Jeanne Shaheen (D.) and Scott Brown (R.), Brown pointed out that Shaheen’s vote for Obamacare in 2010 “took three-quarters of a trillion dollars from our seniors’ Medicare to help pay for Obamacare, something I never would have done.” Shaheen denied that Obamacare cut Medicare, claiming that the allegation has “been shown to be false by a number of independent organizations.”

Actually, no. Some partisan self-styled “fact-checkers” have claimed that the cuts won’t harm seniors’ health care — an opinion, not a fact, by the way — but nobody denies that the cuts are actually baked into Obamacare. In 2012, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare would reduce Medicare spending by $716 billion, in the period from 2013 to 2022, relative to prior law. From 2014 to 2023, the total reduction in Medicare spending is more like $853 billion, because the cuts didn’t really go into effect until 2014.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t try to shore up the Medicare program by trimming its overspending. My own health-reform plan does so by means-testing and privatizing health coverage for future retirees. But Obamacare cuts Medicare for current retirees, rendering hypocritical Democrats’ usual demagoguery on the Medicare issue.

During the 2012 campaign, Team Obama first trotted out the trope that Obamacare’s Medicare cuts aren’t really cuts. I debunked those claims at the time, here and here. I have more details on Shaheen’s comments here, including her wild assertion that Obamacare is actually slowing the growth of health-care spending. 

Nearly every Democratic candidate for Senate is using these talking points in 2014. It’s up to their opponents to keep them honest. 

Avik Roy — Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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