For American seniors, Republicans have a new scare tactic: Democrats are coming for your Medicare!!
Term-limited Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is now running for Senate (and who knows all about coming for Medicare himself, as a perpetrator of what was at the time the largest fraud against government health-care programs in history) posted this on Twitter:
If you want to protect Medicare, vote Republican. If you want a socialist experiment with Medicare, by all means vote Democrat.
— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) September 6, 2018
President Trump as usual made it even more stark, shouting at an Indiana rally recently that Democrats "want to raid Medicare to pay for socialism."
The idea is to try to drive seniors even further into the Republican camp with a Karl Rove-style Big Lie — namely, accuse the enemy of doing the thing you are guilty of doing.
Seniors, don't believe this BS. Democrats are only going to make your Medicare better, stronger, and cheaper.
Many Democrats have embraced some kind of a Medicare-for-all plan. But it's not just about expanding Medicare to cover the whole population, it's also about improving it dramatically. In the case of the bill from Bernie Sanders that has gotten so much attention recently, that specifically means no more Medicare premiums, co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance; while newly covering hearing, dental, and vision.
As most seniors probably know quite well, Medicare cost-sharing can be substantial. Its Part A has a premium in some cases, with a $1,340 deductible per benefit period, and a complex schedule of co-insurance. Part B has a premium of about $130 in most cases, with a $183 yearly deductible plus 20 percent co-insurance. Parts C and D also have cost-sharing depending on the plan. Then most seniors have "Medigap" policies on top of that to cover stuff like vision and dental.
Democrats want to zero almost all of this out, with the exception of a small drug co-pay, capped at $250. What's more, all this ridiculous complexity of existing Medicare would be streamlined into one simple, straightforward program, thus reducing burdensome paperwork headaches substantially. And as I have outlined here in detail, this huge expansion in coverage and generosity could be paid for mainly by squeezing drug company profiteering, needless administrative complexity, and outrageous price bloat, with only a modest tax increase of some kind needed to top up the funding.
In short, the vast majority of seniors would come out ahead, probably by a lot.
Now let's take a look at the Republican record on Medicare. Conservatives have been agitating against social insurance in general for decades. Ronald Reagan got his political start with a fulminating agitprop record portraying Medicare as first step towards a totalitarian communist dictatorship, (while a Democratic president and Congress were passing and building the program in the first place). George W. Bush's presidency entered its terminal decline when he proposed privatizing Social Security.
After the sweeping Republican victory in the 2010 midterms, GOP budget guru Paul Ryan proposed to repeal and replace Medicare, moving from a social insurance program to a private "premium support" model. Basically it would have turned Medicare into ObamaCare. This proved to be seriously unpopular, and Republicans quietly shelved the plan.
But Ryan brought back the premium support plan in mid-2016 with the "Better Way" white paper, and briefly considered trying to ram it through after Trump's victory under a blizzard of lies about how Medicare was on the verge of bankruptcy. But after the narrow failure of Ryan's attempt to repeal ObamaCare so he could cut taxes on the rich, it appears to be shelved again.
Seniors should not rest easy, though. It was just one vote in the Senate that saved ObamaCare (sort of) and prevented sweeping cuts to Medicaid. If Republicans manage to hang on to the House and Senate, they will probably be emboldened to try to hack away at Medicaid again, and possibly Medicare too. Trump's budget director insists that he's going to keep pressing for cuts. If recent history is any guide, the new crop of Republicans will be even more extreme than the last batch. The swing vote that brought down TrumpCare belonged to John McCain, after all. His successor will not be so moderate.
Republican base voters will no doubt be convinced of whatever Trump says. But for seniors not in the grips of the Fox News fever dream, it is absolutely beyond question that left-wing Democrats are the ones that will protect and improve Medicare. The GOP will claim to do so, but make no mistake: They are lying.