Obama Doubles Down on Medicare Rationing

Seniors, beware. Buried in the president’s deficit speech this week was a plan to give even more powers to the Medicare rationing board created in his health overhaul law.

Mr. Obama proposes giving the unelected, unaccountable Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) new authority to tighten the screws on payments, which first target Medicare Advantage and prescription drugs and eventually all Medicare services. The president clearly sees rationing as the tool to control costs by setting “a more ambitious target” for the IPAB ax.

According to a House Budget Committee estimate, the president’s IPAB goals would mean benefit cuts of $9,600 for seniors over the coming decade.

Medicare actuaries have said that the payment cuts already built into ObamaCare mean Medicare would eventually pay less than Medicaid does today, making it extraordinarily difficult for patients to find a doctor to see them.

Are seniors prepared for this?

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Disingenuous charges: So it was particularly disingenuous when the president claimed in his speech that seniors would “have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today” under Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to modernize the Medicare program.

Since the president offered a speech, not the detailed 73-page plan that Ryan offered, we have to try to figure out what the White House really means.

Here’s the best assessment: The Ryan plan, when it begins in the year 2022, would provide an age-adjusted payment so that seniors can pick the best health plan to meet their needs. The older they are, the bigger the payment they would get.

The average payment for insurance for all seniors is expected to be about $15,000 a year. But it will be less for seniors when they turn 65 because their health costs will be lower and the expected payment of $8,000 for these younger seniors would cover most or all of their premiums.

The White House apparently did simple subtraction between the expected payment for 65-year-olds and the average premium for all seniors and came up with a number that has no relation to reality.

But expect to hear it a lot when members of Congress hit their town hall meetings over the next two weeks in an effort to scare seniors about having to pay $6,400 more out of pocket a decade hence. This was politically motivated math that would be exposed if the White House had provided a plan rather than a speech, and they shouldn’t get away with it.

Remind people that the president’s plan is much more dangerous for current seniors. Not only does he do nothing to save the program from bankruptcy, but seniors in this decade will face nearly $10,000 in benefit cuts under IPAB’s rule.

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Missing the mark, big time. The president’s speech missed the mark in both form and content. How insulting to invite Rep. Ryan to sit in the front row for the speech only to literally look down on him and belittle his serious plan to save entitlement programs for future generations!

The speech could have been an opportunity to start a genuine conversation over the vital need to “have an adult conversation” over saving our country from fiscal calamity. Instead, the president used his time at the podium to give a shallow political speech that reiterated the same government-centric policies.

The president is kicking hard choices down the road to his successors or to unelected bureaucrats. He wants to create yet another commission, he walled off entitlement programs from genuine reform — even as it is clear that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are the real drivers of the deficit — and he would give new powers to IPAB appointees (proposing they be directed to reduce Medicare cost growth per beneficiary to GDP per capita plus 0.5% beginning in 2018 vs. 1% under current ObamaCare law).

He also targets prescription drugs for savings even though this represents only a small fraction of overall Medicare spending. I wonder what happened to the deal that prescription drug companies wouldn’t be demonized if they would come to the table and support ObamaCare.

Further, the president refuses to give governors real power to manage their Medicaid programs even as his new health law threatens to crush states with more than $115 billion in new spending from ObamaCare’s mandated coverage expansions. The only way to “make Medicaid more flexible, efficient and accountable” is to give states both the resources and incentives to better manage spending through block grants that allow them to cut through mountains of federal red tape, as the Ryan plan would do.

Robert Pear of The New York Times had an important article about Medicaid and his conversation with a Louisiana Medicaid recipient, Nicole R. Dardeau.

“My Medicaid card is useless for me right now,” Ms. Dardeau said over lunch. “It’s a useless piece of plastic. I can’t find an orthopedic surgeon or a pain management doctor who will accept Medicaid.”

And what does ObamaCare do? It sends up to 25 million more people to this Medicaid ghetto as states are forced to dramatically expand their programs, making it even more difficult for the poorest and sickest recipients to get care in even more crowded hospital emergency rooms.

Seniors should be listening because that is their fate, too, under ObamaCare.

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A great review: Our dear friend and valued colleague, Sally Pipes, who heads the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco, has written a superb review of our book, Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America for The Washington Times.

Sally was born and raised in Canada and has direct experience with the horrors of socialized medicine, losing her mother several years ago to the country’s neglectful government-run health care system.

Her own book, The Truth about ObamaCare, was published by Regnery just weeks after the legislation was enacted last year, a heroic feat in itself as she was also writing and speaking non-stop in hopes we could stop this freight train.

Sally dissects the legislation and explains how it doubles-down on the worst aspects of the problems with health care in the U.S. today, giving people fewer choices with less competition, higher prices, less innovation, and mandates and regulations that will crush our health sector in bureaucracy and red tape.

The two books are companions, not duplicates, and will give you everything you need to know so you can join us in the fight to make sure ObamaCare never takes effect. Join us in this battle for freedom!


Will Health Reform Reduce the Federal Deficit?

In this week’s video from the Alliance for Health Reform, Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute explains why he disagrees with the assertion that the health law will reduce the federal deficit.
Watch now >>




Mitt’s Mistake: ObamaCare Is Not ‘Waivable’

Grace-Marie Turner
Investor’s Business Daily, 04/01/11

Mitt Romney may have waived goodbye to the GOP nomination with his assertion that he could start unraveling ObamaCare by issuing an executive order as soon as he moved into the White House. “If I were president,” Romney wrote on the website of the conservative magazine National Review, “on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for ObamaCare waivers to all 50 states.” Simply put, executive orders cannot contradict statutory law. Waivers are not a solution and might well detract from the ultimate goal of repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a truly free market alternative that puts patients — not bureaucrats — in charge of their health care.

Read More »

Patient-Centered Program

Grace-Marie Turner
The New York Times: Room for Debate, 04/05/11

Medicare is an antiquated program desperately in need of reform. Its fee-for-service design leads to uncoordinated and often duplicative care, it is facing $30 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and there are so many gaps in coverage that most senior citizens are forced to obtain supplemental insurance. Retiree health coverage and Medigap plans help those fortunate enough to have them. For more than 10 million people, many of modest means, private Medicare Advantage plans provide access to more comprehensive care at little or no extra cost. The fact that nearly one in four seniors has voluntarily enrolled in Medicare Advantage shows that senior citizens are seeking out this more comprehensive coverage from health plans that are better able to provide coordinated care.

Read More »

The Budget’s Path to Prosperity

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: The Corner, 04/03/11

House Republicans will begin a new conversation in Washington as they offer a bold plan to start putting our fiscal house in order. A survey conducted last week for Let Freedom Ring, a grassroots organization supporting the conservative agenda, shows Americans are ready. “Suppose a family was spending $16,000 more than they earn and they charged it to their credit card,” the survey asked. “If they decided to cut their spending by $610 and continued to charge the remaining $15,390 on their credit card, would you say that they had taken a serious step towards solving their spending problem?” An overwhelming 86 percent of those surveyed said that would not be a serious attempt at reform. Only 5 percent said it would be, according to the survey conducted March 30 by Pulse Opinion Research. Yet the numbers equate to the budget debate in Congress. Clearly, Americans are ready to get the country’s fiscal house in order, and they don’t just want nicks around the edges of the deficit.

Read More »

Premium Support Will Be Good for Seniors

Grace-Marie Turner
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 04/05/11

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan is working to save Medicare with his proposal to begin modernizing the program through premium support. Joseph A. Antos of the American Enterprise Institute took the lead in developing a letter sent to congressional leaders last week endorsing this concept, and the letter was signed by 30 of our colleagues in the policy community. The key message: “The budget resolution that will soon be adopted by the House of Representatives is likely to include a call for Medicare reform. The key to that reform is premium support, which can restore fiscal health to the program by promoting more efficient and effective health care for America’s seniors.”

Read More »

ObamaCare: Still a Clear and Present Danger

Grace-Marie Turner
RealClearMarkets, 04/04/11

ObamaCare is alive and well and is the law of the land. Not one word of this 2,801 page law has been changed or repealed. It poses a clear and present danger to America’s freedom, prosperity, and health care. In terms of freedom, ObamaCare may be one of Washington’s biggest broadsides against personal liberty in history. The good news is that ObamaCare will not be in full force until 2014. Thus, for the next three years, the cure for this disease remains exactly what it was the day the president signed it into law: Repeal the law and replace it with a market-oriented, patient-centered alternative.

Read More »

The New Health Law: Bad for Doctors, Awful for Patients

Jason Fodeman, M.D.
Galen Institute, 04/11

While much has been said about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), lengthy debates have failed to adequately address the impact that the 2,801 pages will have on doctors, patients, and the practice of medicine. This Galen Institute white paper does just that. This paper examines in detail how the government already hinders physicians’ abilities to provide good care for their patients and how these harmful trends will only worsen under PPACA.

Read More »


How to Dismantle ObamaCare
Sally C. Pipes, The Washington Times, 04/12/11

Health Care Reform Takes Toll on Jobs
Janet Trautwein, The Baltimore Sun, 04/06/11

The $2 Million Patients
The Wall Street Journal, 04/07/11

When One Vote Matters: The Electoral Impact of Roll Call Votes in the 2010 Congressional Elections
Seth E. Masket, University of Denver and Steven Greene, North Carolina State University, 04/11

Do Health Reform and Malpractice Reform Fit Together?
David Hyman, William M. Sage, American Enterprise Institute, 04/01/11


Comparative Effectiveness Research: Political Science, Not Medical Science
Richard Dolinar, M.D., Health Care News, 05/11

Incentivizing Comparative Effectiveness Research
Scott E. Harrington, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 01/11


The New Health Care Law’s Effect on State Medicaid Spending: A Study of the Five Most Populous States
Jagadeesh Gokhale, Cato Institute, 04/06/11

Medicare in a Fiscal Crisis Congress Cannot Ignore
Joseph Antos, The Fiscal Times: Capital Exchange, 04/01/11

Medicare for a New Century
The Wall Street Journal, 04/06/11

Cuts Leave Patients With Medicaid Cards, but No Specialist to See
Robert Pear, The New York Times, 04/01/11

Medicaid on April Fool’s Day: Who Is Being Fooled?
Robert B. Helms, American Enterprise Institute, 04/01/11

Tackling the Runaway Medicare Train
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, RealClearMarkets, 04/14/11

Fiscal Restraint Includes Medicaid
David Gratzer, Politico, 04/14/11


State Health Care Flexibility: The Good, the Bad and the Broke
Merrill Matthews, Forbes: Right Directions, 04/06/11


Breast Cancer Fight Extends to a Drug
Peter J. Pitts, San Diego Tribune, 04/01/11


Grace-Marie Turner on The Wall Street Shuffle Show
KXFR-AM Radio Broadcast
Friday, April 15, 2011
5:25pm CDT
Houston, TX

Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research Book Forum
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
6:00pm – 8:00pm
New York, NY
For more information, contact Taisha Camacho at tcamacho@manhattan-institute.org.

Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America Bloggers Briefing
The Heritage Foundation Event
Tuesday, April 29, 2011
Washington, DC
The authors of Why ObamaCare Is Wrong for America, including Galen’s president Grace-Marie Turner, will discuss the book with bloggers and online journalists.

Health Care 2011: Advancing Health Care by Facilitating Innovation
Galen Institute Conference
Thursday, May 5, 2011
8:30am – 1:30pm
Washington, DC