In order to move ‘forward,’ Obama pushes Medicare’s October surprise back

Jim Martin Chairman, 60 Plus Association
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This week the president’s re-election campaign officially dumped the campaign’s old motto, “It’s all Bush’s fault!” for a new one, “Forward.” It may not be the catchiest slogan, but given the dismal state of the country after three and a half years of his stewardship, what other options does Obama really have?

Other suggested slogans included “Not bad for a community organizer,” but that didn’t test well, and people found “Don’t I have cute kids?” lacking in substance. Reagan gave us “Morning in America” because it reflected that his policies, his leadership and his eternal optimism in the American people brought a new dawn of pride and prosperity to our nation. “Forward” is a button on a tape recorder, and I’m not sure anyone even owns those anymore.

While Obama may want to sweep his record of the last three years under the rug, I doubt shifting the focus to the future does him any favors. The new motto is nothing if not open-ended, ripe for every critic to play fill-in-the-blank concerning what it may be that lays “forward” for us. Some may point to the $1.9 trillion in higher taxes that we’ll be paying, while others can highlight the additional $10 trillion in national debt projected by Obama’s budget. But where “forward” really has the greatest potential to come back to bite him in November is, as always, with health care.

Obama is well aware of this. In the campaign video that unveiled his new theme, Obamacare received less than 20 seconds of mention in a seven-minute commercial, an encore from his State of the Union address where Obamacare received a mere 44 seconds in a speech that lasted well over an hour. If this is the president’s “signature” achievement, it seems he signed it with invisible ink.

The “Forward” slogan gives Obama the breathing room he needs to forget the past and play the role of visionary. And if Obama has a vision, it looks a lot like this: It’s October of this year, just weeks away from the election, and the president sees millions of seniors in Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania waking up one morning to find out they’ve been dumped from their Medicare Advantage coverage because of Obamacare’s $145 billion cut to the program. The vision concludes with those same millions of seniors stampeding to the polls to vote him out.

In the 2010 midterm elections, which were largely a referendum on Obamacare, seniors made up 13% of eligible voters but accounted for 23% of all ballots cast, and that didn’t turn out well for Obama or the Democrats. The iceberg heading the president’s way this October has the potential to be much worse given the timing, and after telling seniors for over two years that Obamacare would strengthen Medicare and not hurt Medicare Advantage, Obama wants to make sure seniors don’t lose crucial coverage just weeks before Election Day.

As it turns out, the cost to avoid this doomsday electoral scenario is a mere $8.3 billion. That’s the sum Obamacare allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a so-called “demonstration program” that temporarily offsets the cut in Medicare Advantage, an attempt to fool seniors — with our tax dollars — that all is well with their health insurance. The vast majority of this money is slated to be spent in the next two years, pushing the date seniors would discover they’ve been dumped from their popular Medicare coverage back a few years, well beyond the election (when Obama will have more flexibility with the Russians).

Demonstration programs are nothing new, in fact they were created to help find innovations in Medicare that would provide better services at lower cost, and have typically been quite successful. But this $8.3 billion expenditure doesn’t even pretend to meet the goal of innovating Medicare, and after a thorough review the General Accounting Office (GAO) labeled it a dud and a waste of taxpayer money, pointing out that it’s “at least seven times larger than that of any other Medicare demonstration conducted since 1995.”

The GAO recommended the program be canceled, but the White House of course is without shame, and has no such intention. The House GOP voted last week to defund the HHS slush fund to cover the cost of lower interest rate payments for student loans, a bold move but ultimately a futile one.

All Obama and the Democrats care about is survival by any means necessary. The truth is that they lied, telling seniors they had nothing to fear concerning their Medicare coverage, then to hide the lie they created another lie, a program whose sole reason for existence is to patch over their earlier lie. Their objective is simple deception, hiding the reality of disappearing coverage until after an election, pulling off yet another senior swindle to avoid the mother of all “October surprises.”

Obama is doing everything he can to eliminate any unpleasant bumps in the road to Election Day, and avoiding this potential “October surprise” for millions of seniors is a big step toward that end. Deception is his stock and trade as he runs from his record and attempts to fast-forward past the unpleasantness of the gradual implementation of Obamacare. That’s something that all of us, not just seniors losing quality Medicare coverage, are not looking forward to.

Jim Martin is chairman and founder of the 60 Plus Association, which represents 7.l million seniors nationally.