Tuesday, March 8, 2011

GOP Budget Cuts: Good for the Goose...

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 3:30 PM

One of the strangest attack lines that came from the GOP last year involved the claim that Democrats had cut $500 billion from Medicare. Republican Jesse Kelly used it often against Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords because Giffords voted in favor of the Democratic health-care plan, which tried to rein in future spending on Medicare.

One big part of that $500 million in cuts was a reduction of funding for the Medicare Advantage program. Medicare Advantage started out as a way of showing that private insurers could do a better and cheaper job than the government. By last year, their costs were actually about 15 percent higher than the government's cost.

Seems like a failure of the private market, right? But GOP lawmakers were determined to attack the health-care package, even if it meant attacking it for reducing spending. Even Sen. Jon Kyl, who isn't seeking reelection, supports the effort to subsidize insurance companies, no matter what the cost. In my last interview with him, he said cuts to Medicare Advantage program were off the table.

But now that Republicans are looking to cut the budget, Democrats think they can use the GOP gameplan against them. Politico reports:

The Republican Party and its allies funneled millions into TV ads last year accusing Democrats from Pennsylvania to Missouri of “gutting Medicare” and “hurting seniors” — charges that compelled older voters to swing en masse toward the GOP.

But now, as Republicans move to tackle the country’s gaping debt, they are weighing changes to Medicare — from higher premiums to spending caps — that open them to the same attacks they leveled only months ago against Democrats over the health care law.

And Democrats haven’t forgotten it.

“I can imagine a lot of frustration from the president that when he chose to do Medicare savings that will be less impactful, these guys viciously attacked him for rationing health care and hurting seniors,” said Neera Tanden, a former administration aide who worked on the health care law and chief operating officer of the Center for American Progress. “At the end of the day, there is a [campaign] battle plan for attacking Medicare savings, and it was written by Republicans.”

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