The White House’s Medicare Hypocrisy

Top Obama administration advisers must justify their hypocrisy over criticisms of the Romney-Ryan Medicare proposal after internal memos have surfaced showing they advised the White House to adopt a similar approach in 2010, according to Manhattan Institute health-policy expert Avik Roy.

Even worse, the advisers wanted President Obama to go around Congress to turn Medicare into a “voucher.”

Roy reports in a piece for Forbes entitled “Top Obama Advisers Proposed Voucherizing Medicare Way Back in . . . 2010?”:

Meghan McCarthy of National Journal obtained internal White House emails documenting that two key Obama health-care advisers—David Cutler of Harvard and Jonathan Gruber of MIT—proposed that Obama privatize the Medicare program as part of the negotiations surrounding the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission in 2010, in ways that were well to the right of what Mitt Romney has proposed.

“How about this…removing the special status of [traditional] Medicare,” Cutler wrote, according to McCarthy. Obama’s fiscal commission should support “moving the Medicare population into the [Obamacare] exchanges…that would be the same as the voucher” proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and former Clinton budget Chief Alice Rivlin, in what became known as the Rivlin-Ryan plan.

Roy — who is a solid analyst and also an outside adviser to the Romney campaign — writes:

What’s even more remarkable about Cutler’s suggestion, according to McCarthy, is that Cutler proposed enacting this reform by going around Congress. Cutler proposed using Obamacare’s new Medicare rationing board, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, to impose such a reform upon seniors without Congressional amendment.

I happen to think that privatizing Medicare is a good thing. But imposing that change upon the country—without going through the normal democratic channels—is certainly aggressive, and takes Cutler’s change of heart to another level. As McCarthy noted, “That is a proposition you won’t hear in talking points from either Cutler or the Obama campaign.”

This is the same David Cutler, we must note, who three weeks ago published a blistering and factually inaccurate critique of the Romney-Ryan plan, claiming that it would “harm all seniors” by bringing modest and well-established reforms to the program.

Cutler wasn’t alone with his advice that the White House support the privatization of Medicare.  He was joined by MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber, who also backed the Rivlin-Ryan “premium support” plan. “So overall I like this proposal for Medicare,” Gruber wrote. When interviewed by McCarthy, he explained, “In theory, [premium support] is not wrong” then explained what would need to happen for it to work.

Posted on National Review Online: The Corner, September 13, 2012.

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