Quick and easy smackdowns of ‘Medi-Scare’ falsehoods

David Cohen Former Deputy Assistant Sec. of the Interior
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President Obama’s supporters have unleashed a barrage of falsehoods and half-truths about the Medicare reform plans offered by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. When confronted with Medi-Scare demagoguery, it helps to have a handy guide of rebuttals that are concise, easy to state, easy to grasp. I have taken a crack at preparing such a guide. It takes information supplied by some of the top experts in the country and distills it into bite-sized bits. And, unlike the Medi-Scare talking points, this information has the added bonus of being true. By mastering just a few facts, you will soon be able to convince even the most paranoid grandmother that Paul Ryan has no intention of pushing her off a cliff.

Medi-Scare Talking Point No. 1: GOP Medicare reforms would hurt current seniors.

Rebuttal: False. The reforms would not apply to current seniors or anyone who would become a senior citizen in the near future. The Ryan Plan would not apply to anyone over 54.

Medi-Scare Talking Point No. 2: Romney and Ryan would “end Medicare as we know it.”

Rebuttal: False. People who become senior citizens in the future, after the reforms finally do go into effect, would be guaranteed the ability to buy a fully subsidized plan with the same benefits that Medicare offers today. There would be more choice and competition, though. If some future seniors wanted to buy simpler plans that cost less than the Medicare subsidy, they could do so and pocket the savings; if others wanted to buy more elaborate plans that cost more, they could use their own funds to pay the excess.

Medi-Scare Talking Point No. 3: Republicans are lying when they say President Obama cut Medicare to pay for Obamacare.

Rebuttal: Don’t argue with me, argue with President Obama. He admitted in 2009 that Obamacare would indeed cut Medicare to supply a third of Obamacare’s funding. You can also argue with the liberal Washington Post, which details how Obamacare cuts $716 billion that otherwise would have gone to Medicare and diverts it to Obamacare.

Medi-Scare Talking Point No. 4: The $716 billion in Medicare “savings” under Obamacare mostly comes from eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.

Rebuttal: If you believe that government can eliminate waste, fraud and abuse simply by passing a law, then you’ve got a great deal of faith in government — and you’re probably going to vote for Obama. But as Charles Krauthammer might ask: If government has the power to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse by passing a law, why didn’t they pass that law a long time ago?

Medi-Scare Talking Point No. 5: The Medicare cuts that are used to fund Obamacare affect payments to doctors and hospitals, not seniors. These cuts will not affect seniors’ health care.

Rebuttal: If you believe that Medicare can cut hundreds of billions in reimbursements to doctors and hospitals without affecting the services provided to seniors, then you probably flunked Economics — and you’re probably going to vote for Obama. This is how Fred Thompson once mocked Democratic proposals to increase taxes only on the “rich”: “They say they are not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the ‘other’ side of the bucket.” The same logic applies here. Despite the president’s claim that no Medicare benefits will be affected by Obamacare, the Obamacare cuts to Medicare will actually have a very significant impact on access to health care and quality of care for current — and future — seniors. Our experience with Medicaid proves the obvious: If you underpay health care providers, they’ll stop providing service.

Second rebuttal: Another way that Obamacare hurts current (and future) seniors is through the Independent Payment Advisory Board. IPAB, as it’s known, will enforce cost-cutting on Medicare by determining which treatments will be paid for — and which will not.

Third rebuttal: Yet another way that Obamacare hurts current seniors is by cutting the popular Medicare Advantage program, a market-based program that almost 25 percent of seniors participate in. Healthcare experts Robert Book and Jim Capretta found that “Medicare beneficiaries who would have enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program under prior law will lose an average of $3,714 in 2017 health care services.”

That covers the main points, and I encourage you to seek out more detailed information by following the links. But before you charge out there and show off your newfound knowledge, here’s a quick note about the tactics you’re likely to encounter from the other side: They’ll find something in writing that supports their position — a study by liberal academics, a column by a liberal pundit, a report by a liberal fact-checking outfit, whatever — and latch onto it. They’ll latch onto to it whether or not it has any credibility. (Remember those viral charts that “proved” President Obama increased spending more slowly than any modern president? April Fool’s!) And, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there are strong arguments and scholarship on the other side, they will condemn with the harshest of invective the liars, imbeciles and flat-earthers who refuse to accept the “proven” facts. They will behave as if shrieking, name-calling and personal attacks somehow make their arguments more logical.

Take, for example, Bob Cesca’s recent piece in the Huffington Post (“Debunking Romney’s Viral Medicare Lie”). “The Romney campaign appears to be engaged in a pattern that involves creating and spreading a new and colossal Lie of the Week,” hyperventilates Cesca. He then goes on to denounce “right-wing apparatchik and Sarah Palin fanboy Rich Lowry,” “RNC Chairman and Star Wars Cantina Alien Reince Priebus,” and other evil-doers for spreading not just lies, but “massive” lies — indeed, “crap-on-a-stick” lies — and for “infect[ing] the discourse like the Ebola virus.” For some on the left, hysterical rhetoric is the magical putty that can fill any hole in one’s logical argument. If you scream it, it must be true.

In preparing this guide, I have relied upon the work of think tanks such as Cato, AEI and Heritage. I have also borrowed heavily from Avik Roy, who, in addition to being an outside adviser to the Romney campaign (which must make him a “massive liar” in the eyes of some Obama supporters), is a health care investment analyst and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Bob Cesca’s expertise, on the other hand, apparently derives from his work as a “media poroducer” and “host of the Bob & Chez Show.”

Now that you’re armed with the truth, you are ready to confidently venture into the fray. Now, go out there and comfort Grandma!

David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals.