fresh voices from the front lines of change







During a webcast meeting with Organizing for America on Thursday, President Barack Obama outed the covert Republican plot to strangle Medicare to financial death.

He explained to the group that if Congress does nothing, if health care reform fails, "Medicare will run out of money in eight years."

Obama and the Democrats are pressing for health care reform to provide people under 65 with some semblance of what those over 65 have - government-assured affordable medical insurance. At the same time, for Medicare, Obama said, "Part of what we want to do is strengthen it, so it is there over the long haul."

"It is not as if," he said, "if we just stand still, everything is going to be okay."

Immobility is exactly what Republicans want, however. "No change" is their slogan. They've offered zero substantive reform for health care. In the years when they controlled Congress and the White House under former President George W. Bush, they did nothing to repair financial problems with Medicare. In fact, they falsely minimized the price tag of the new prescription drug program, Medicare Part D, and drove up the cost by forbidding government negotiation for lower medicine prices. In addition, although they failed to accomplish it, they pressed to privatize that socialist program called Social Security -- just months before the stock market tanked.

This is philosophical warfare, and for the Republicans, Medicare is an appropriate casualty. The GOP has made it clear they believe the public option being proposed in health care reform is socialism - an evil that must be eradicated at all costs. Of course, Medicare, a government-sponsored health care program for all people over 65 actually is socialist.

It's a slippery slope. First Republicans kill the opportunity for all Americans under the age of 65 to choose their own private insurance or get government-sponsored health care under the public option. Then, by doing nothing, Republicans destroy the ability of those over 65 to retain their government-sponsored health care.

Senior citizens are more frightened about health care reform than anyone else. That may be, President Obama said, because they routinely need health care more than any other group. So lying to them about it, especially for political gain, is cruel and despicable.

It's true, Democrats want change. They seek to reform and improve the health care system so that Medicare is strengthened and funded for the future. For example, Obama noted, under the Democrats' plan, the "donut hole" in Medicare Part D, during which senior citizens must pay for their prescription medications, would be eliminated. President Obama got the pharmaceutical companies to step up and pay more - if Congress manages to pass reform.

A huge portion of the cost of health care reform would come from changes in the way the federal government pays for Medicaid and Medicare. What the Democrats want to change are payment methods that are just wrong. No bid contracts, for example. Introducing real capitalist competition in the system would reduce costs without affecting benefits. "No one is talking about messing with your Medicare benefits," Obama said, attempting in a mere statement to counter screaming "tea baggers" featured continuously on Fox News. Of the Democrats he said, "We think Medicare is a sacred trust."

On health care reform, the Republican plan to do nothing means death. Death for the public option. But also death for Medicare.

President Obama explained: "The status quo is unsustainable. If you like what you have now, unless we make some changes, you are not going to have what you like because health care costs are rising three times faster than wages. . . If you have a private plan, you have something to worry about. If you are on Medicare, you have something to worry about because we are going to run out of money."

Democrats are trying to resuscitate Medicare and deliver health care reform. Republicans are forming death panels to kill all of it.

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