Friday Roundtable: Kyl Talks GOP House Control, Medicare Reform & More

U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl stopped by Arizona Illustrated last week not to gloat about the GOP’s big takeover of the House of Representatives, but rather to tamp down expectations by reminding viewers that Republicans don’t control the U.S. Senate or the presidency.

Kyl’s spin: Don’t expect too much from the GOP until voters give them back the Senate and the presidency.

But Kyl’s response to a question about Medicare funding left us wondering just how committed the GOP really is to balancing the budget.

One of the GOP’s biggest attack lines during the recently completed campaign season was that Democrats had cut $500 billion from Medicare as part of the health-care reform package. It was one of the lines we heard over and over again from Republican Jesse Kelly in his campaign to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (which always struck us as odd, given that Kelly’s own long-term proposal was to get rid of Medicare and ask elderly Americans to buy health insurance in a private market so they'd be able to “get off the public dole”).

As Factcheck.org will tell you, Democrats didn’t actually cut $500 billion from Medicare; they reduced future expected expenditures over the next decade by $500 billion with a few reforms.

Whether those reforms will actually take place remains to be seen; some of them involve reducing payments to doctors and hospitals—a touchy move that’s been tried before and always reversed by Congress before it actually takes place.

But one big cost reduction—an estimated $136 million over 10 years, according to The New York Times—came from reducing the amount of money the federal government would spend on the Medicare Advantage program, an alternative to traditional Medicare that pays private insurance companies to provide coverage for elderly Americans.

The original idea behind Medicare Advantage was an admirable experiment: Let’s see if private insurers could provide better health-care coverage to seniors at