Before the election, Rep. Kevin McCarthy said that electing Mitt Romney would mean that Republicans have a mandate to overhaul Medicare: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy: Election is ‘Mandate’ to Overhaul Medicare:
House Republican Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) says electing Mitt Romney this fall means Republicans have a ‘mandate’ to overhaul Medicare. As McCarthy put it, “If there’s a mandate going through this election, it’s to save Medicare.” As I put it: When Republicans say “save Medicare” they mean end Medicare as we know it. They would keep a government program called Medicare but it would not be the Medicare that has existed for almost half a century. The Republican plan for Medicare is to turn it into a program designed to shortchange seniors while increasing profits for private insurance companies.
We have a single payer health care insurance program that works very well for senior citizens. We don’t need to hand Medicare over to private insurance. Republicans can continue to blame Democrats for doing nothing to “save Medicare” but Republicans are the “kill Medicare” party and they have been for decades.
If what he said on this Sunday's Meet the Press is any indication, McCarthy hasn't seemed to figure out that they lost. And we've already explained here why this trial balloon put out there by the administration, where it seems they've forgotten who won as well, is a really bad idea that needs to be pushed back against forcefully. As everyone explained, even partially privatizing Medicare is not going to "save" the program. It just makes the cost of health care coverage more expensive for seniors.
I was glad to see Sen. Dick Durbin say raising the age is off the table during this interview, but I wasn't thrilled about him offering up means testing. Digby has more on that here: Hot Air Trial Ballooning:
I have a sneaking feeling that Durbin is throwing up a smokescreen there (or he's been smoking some of that special Alan Simpson sensimilla.) He must know that the argument is that Obamacare will pick up the slack if they decide to raise the Medicare age. If he doesn't then he needs to find another line of work.
Even Mitt Romney's health care advisor, Avik Roy from the Manhattan Institute, knows that. Here's what he said on Up with Chris Hayes this morning (with Steve Kornacki subbing for Chris)
"I have to respond to this interesting hyperbole about Medicare death sentence. If you raise the retirement age for Medicare, we have the Affordable Care Act as the backstop. Everybody under 400% poverty level is still covered with the affordable care act in place. So what we are really talking about is means testing Medicare by raising the retirement age. People who are upper income, above 400% of the poverty level won't be subsidized if they're younger retirees. It's where entitlement reform should go, to expand it into the retiree population."
(Kornacki pointed out that ACA is being challenged so it's not exactly a backstop at this point, but he let the topic drop in favor of more masturbation over tax rates.)
It sounds as if Roy and Jonathan Chait may have found the bipartisan sweet spot for Obamacare. Privatize Medicare! Now that really is a Grand Bargain.
Before everyone gets into another tizzy about how shrill and unreasonable I'm being for taking this rumor seriously, let's have a little discussion of what a "trial balloon" is. It is, simply, a rumor that's purposefully spread during a negotiation in order to gauge the reaction. Therefore, it is important to react, not act all glib and self-assured that it could never happen. They want to know if you think this is a good idea, so if you don't you should say so. And you should say it in a shrill enough fashion that they know it's a very big deal, if you think it's a very big deal.
Transcript below the fold.
GREGORY: All right. Well, senator, let me just-- I want to pin you down on one point about Medicare. You say you want to basically put off this discussion until later. But bottom line, should the Medicare eligibility age go up? Should there be means testing to really get at the benefits side, if you’re going to shore this program up, because as you say, 12 years before it runs out of money?
SEN. DURBIN: Here’s what it comes down to David. I do believe there should be means testing. And those of us with higher income in retirement should pay more. That could be part of the solution. But when you talk about raising the Medicare eligibility age, there’s one key question--what happens to that early retiree? What about that gap in coverage between their workplace and Medicare? How will they be covered? Now I listen to Republicans say we can’t wait to repeal Obamacare and the insurance exchanges. Well, where does a person turn if they're 65 years of age and the Medicare eligibility age is 67? They have two years there where they may not have the best of health. They need to have accessible, affordable medical insurance during that period.
GREGORY: Congressman, is there a deal by January 1st? And if there are tax increases as part of a deal? On tax rates, is there a Republican civil war that’s going to start?
REP. MCCARTHY: The president says he wants tax rate because he wants revenue. Republicans already offered him the revenue. The president also says he wants a balanced approach. That means two and a half to three times as many spending cuts as there are to revenue. We have spent all this time talking about revenue. But as we watched, our government continued to spend more. This is really about spending. You listen to the senator right there. He doesn’t want to move on spending. And that’s the core of the problem. I don’t think Republicans or Americans want to raise any taxes just to continue the spending in Washington. They want it more efficient, more effective and more accountable. So what we’re saying here is we need to do exactly what Ronald Reagan did with Tip O’Neill. Show the leadership to get in the room and make the changes. Same as Bill Clinton did with Newt Gingrich. Get in the room and make the changes that are needed to make this. Look, we faced bigger problems before but we’ve been able to overcome this. I believe we can do this one more time.