Michael Steele, comedian

MICHAEL STEELE, COMEDIAN…. A.L. wrote nine words this morning that literally made me laugh: “GOP now promising to protect seniors’ Medicare from Dems.”

As silly as that sounds, this is the point we’ve reached. In the 1960s, Republicans opposed the creation of Medicare. In the 1990s, Republicans shut down the federal government because a Democratic president wouldn’t tolerate proposed GOP cuts to Medicare. In 2008, the Republican presidential ticket ran on a platform of cutting Medicare.

And in 2009, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has the chutzpah to write a Washington Post op-ed, accusing Democrats of trying to undermine Medicare.

Republicans want reform that should, first, do no harm, especially to our seniors. That is why Republicans support a Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights, which we are introducing today, to ensure that our greatest generation will receive access to quality health care. […]

[Obama] and congressional Democrats are planning to raid, not aid, Medicare by cutting $500 billion from the program to fund his health-care experiment. […]

[W]e need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors. The government-run health-care experiment that Obama and the Democrats propose will give seniors less power to control their own medical decisions and create government boards that would decide what treatments would or would not be funded. Republicans oppose any new government entity overruling a doctor’s decision about how to treat his or her patient.

Steele says Medicare faces long-term shortfalls, but he opposes efforts to address them. He condemns boards that could deny Medicare financing for some treatments, but fails to note that such boards already exist and have for years.

If one sifts through the nonsense, looking for something substantive, what we’re left with is Steele’s uninformed opposition to the creation of an Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC). The idea is to have appointed IMAC members — physicians and medical experts, appointed by the White House and confirmed by the Senate — who would have some added authority to help control what Medicare pays doctors and hospitals. The panel would probably help lower costs more effectively than Congress, which isn’t especially good at these technical, medicinal, and scientific questions.

The idea was originally proposed by conservatives, embraced by Democrats, and would serve as part of a larger effort to save money and take political considerations out of the process.

And now Michael Steele wants seniors to think big bad Democrats are trying to undermine Medicare.

What an embarrassment.

Update: Steele personally endorsed the prospect of Medicare cuts during his unsuccessful 2006 Senate campaign.

Second Update: Media Matters fact-checks Steele’s piece, point by point.

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