Cornyn’s Medicare confusion

CORNYN’S MEDICARE CONFUSION…. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) argued on the Senate floor today that the health care reform proposal would undermine Medicare. I’m afraid he’s a little confused.

“The question that I have and I why in the world would you take money out of the Medicare program that is scheduled to go insolvent in 2017 that has tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, why would you take almost half a trillion dollars out of Medicare to create yet another entitlement program that no doubt will be — will have many of the problems that we see now under our current entitlement programs? It just does not make sense if you are guided by the facts.”

Being “guided by the facts” is a great idea. Cornyn really ought to try it sometime.

Let’s dumb the explanation down a bit, in a way that even Cornyn could understand.

First, Medicare’s budget problems are pretty straightforward — health care costs are growing faster than wages and the rest of the economy, so, in the not too distant future, there’s a serious problem.

The cost-saving measures in the reform proposal help address the problem. Cornyn has it backwards. The AARP, which pays fairly close attention to Medicare, noted that the reform bill improves the solvency issue without cutting benefits. The NYT added, “Far from harming elderly Americans, the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries — by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.”

Second, Cornyn raises the specter of “yet another entitlement program.” He doesn’t specify, but I assume he’s talking about the public option. The problem, of course, is that the public option isn’t an entitlement program — it’s an optional government insurance plan, paid for through individual premiums.

Senators have been dealing with health care reform for the better part of a year. Either Cornyn hasn’t been paying attention and he’s just popping off on a subject he doesn’t understand, or he’s trying to deceive anyone listening.

“Guided by the facts,” indeed.