Medicare’s ‘champions’?

MEDICARE’S ‘CHAMPIONS’?…. About a month ago, the Washington Post reported, “After years of trying to cut Medicare spending, Republican lawmakers have emerged as champions of the program, accusing Democrats of trying to steal from the elderly to cover the cost of health reform.”

Of course, the idea that congressional Republicans could be Medicare’s “champions” has always been a little silly, but the notion gets a little more ridiculous all the time.

On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) introduced his own health care reform plan. Broun, one of the most vocal and persistent critics of comprehensive health care reform, calls his legislation the “only true free-market reform alternative.” And free-market it is. While most of his legislation mirrors other Republican proposals, Broun’s plan for Medicare seems rather revolutionary. He wants to completely get rid of Medicare and replace it with vouchers….

Presumably, seniors would then use their vouchers in the private insurance market. Unfortunately, since nothing in Broun’s OPTION Act deals with the issue of preexisting conditions, insurance companies would deny seniors, who are more likely to have a chronic health problem, left and right.

And as Zaid Jilani explained, “While Medicare is facing future budgetary problems, privatization isn’t the solution. Medicare Advantage, the Medicare plan under which the administration of the program is farmed out to private insurance companies, has more than five times the administrative costs of the traditional public Medicare plan.”

It’s worth noting that while the RNC and congressional Republican leaders have feigned outrage about Democratic efforts to find cost savings in Medicare, no GOP officials in Washington have denounced or distanced themselves from Paul Broun’s privatization plan.

(Note to Hill reporters: ask John Boehner at his next presser, “A leading House Republican last week called for privatizing Medicare. Will you and other party leaders support his effort?”)

Most Republican lawmakers opposed the creation of Medicare; GOP lawmakers pushed for Medicare cuts in the ’80s and ’90s; and last year, the McCain/Palin platform called for significant cuts to the popular program. This year, many prominent GOP lawmakers have argued that Medicare is unconstitutional, and three-fourths of the House Republican caucus voted in April to privatize Medicare out of existence.

It’s probably safe to drop this “emerged as champions of the program” talk.