November 23, 2009
The Senate Democrats finally released their "health care reform" bill last week and it was more of the same. Compiled behind closed doors, the bill is even bigger than the House bill, some 2,074 pages long, and it reflects a huge expansion in the size of our government and its control over our lives. As big and complicated as this bill is, the Democrats are working feverishly to get the votes they need to rush the bill through to Senate passage. While the focus may shift to issues like abortion and immigration, and to a collection of new taxes, and hundreds of new government boards and commissions, I want to bring the focus back to one simple, uncomplicated fact … this bill cuts Medicare by almost 500 billion dollars.
This bill, like the bill that was passed by the House, obtains the bulk of the money required to finance this ill-conceived reform plan through cuts to Medicare. Hospitals, Medicare Advantage plans, nursing homes, home health care services, and hospice – all of those will be slashed by the bill's $465 billion cuts to Medicare. These are cuts that will reduce services and limit options and will cause, either through inadequate reimbursements or by mandate, the rationing of care to the people who paid into the program their whole life and who are counting on its benefits.
How can Congress and the President propose to take money out of Medicare and then use it on another government program? As I've talked with older Americans they have asked me very probing questions and made some very astute comments. As I discussed with them how our government had suddenly "found" nearly $500 billion dollars of waste and inefficiencies in Medicare, and shared what they were proposing to do with it, a man in Pennsylvania told me, "you could never run a company like that." I began to think about what he said. What if Medicare was a private company that you had held stock in since 1965? And what if that company was projected to run into some tough financial times in the future? And then, in 2009, the CEO of that company came to you and said, "we've just found $500 billion dollars of waste and inefficiencies in the company?" While you were still wondering how this much waste could have gone undetected this long, what if the CEO then said, "we're going to find ways to get rid of the waste and inefficiency, and take all of the money we are saving from your company and use it to start another company that you will have no stock in." Wouldn't you fire the CEO and then sell all of your stock in Medicare, knowing that its value was going to drop precipitously? Older Americans know when something just doesn't make sense. When government agencies are tasked with finding $500 billion in "savings" from Medicare their only option is to cut benefits and services, and that's exactly what will happen.
An example of just how this would happen, much to the embarrassment of the Democrats and the President, came to light last week. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that only women over 50 need to get routine mammograms as part of breast cancer screening. This is the task force outlined in the House legislation to make formal recommendations which are to be utilized for federal policy and to determine what services are covered by the federal government in a public plan or other entity. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who runs the department responsible for this task force, immediately tried to distance herself from the task force saying that they just make recommendations that don't have to be followed right now. She didn't say they wouldn't be followed in the future. What I see is Secretary Sebelius telling us to pay no attention to the bureaucrat (or task force) behind the curtain. I think inadvertently the task force behind the curtain got revealed a little early, they weren't supposed to be revealed until after the health care reform bill with the Medicare cuts, the mandates and public option was passed into law – and the bureaucrats are fully in charge of our health care.
Rationing is a real and not unintended consequence of the proposed legislation. It will happen if we don't get Congress to rethink this $500 billion cut to Medicare. There are ways to reform health care, but cutting a program that is already strapped for funds is certainly not the answer. If there is fraud, let's find and prosecute it. If there are inefficiencies in Medicare, let's find and eliminate them, and use the money saved to shore up this life-saving program that older Americans have paid into their whole life. Seniors have paid for and earned their Medicare benefits. They deserve quality health care, not government-rationed health care.
We urge you to call or fax both of your Senators (and your Representative too) and tell them that you don't want them to cut Medicare. Tell them you are watching how they vote and remind them that you have a vote also. We cannot allow these horrendous cuts to Medicare to happen, and with your help we can stop them. Please call now, before it's too late!