Conservatives Targeting Medicare

Bill Scher

Over at Beat The Press, economist Dean Baker spots more disinformation from the Bush administration to undermine our pillars of retirement security:

Bush Appointees Use Trustee Position to Advance Political Agenda

That would have been the appropriate headline for a real news article on the release of the Social Security and Medicare trustees report, not “Trustees Project Serious Financial Challenges for Social Security and Medicare.”

There was nothing in these reports suggesting any qualitative deterioration in the financial state of these programs compared to their situation last year.

Perhaps recognizing that the failure of Social Security privatization is too fresh to revisit, the conservative Heritage Foundation blog, echoes the Trustee report’s spin to renew the effort to take out Medicare: “Medicare presents the greatest challenge to Congress and taxpayers…”

But as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities rightly notes, Medicare is not the problem. Our broken health care system is the problem: “Medicare’s long-term financing problems stem primarily from the continuing sharp rise in both public and private health care costs, not from structural problems with the program.”

Gutting Medicare with privatization doesn’t do anything to stop the skyrocketing costs plaguing the system: millions of uninsured relying on emergency room care, too little preventative care, excessive overhead from private insurers, and the lack of electronic records leading to unnecessary medical procedures.

But the “Health Care For America” plan, creating a public insurance option that fairly competes with private plans, would save $1 trillion in health care spending over 10 years. Comprehensive reform is how we’ll solve our health care financing issues — not destroying Medicare, a proven success for 40 years.

Conservatives lost credibility when they claimed Social Security was in crisis. They won’t get it back by saying Medicare is to blame for our broader health care problems.

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