2011 May 31 Tuesday
Clinton: Democrats Need To Cut Medicare Costs

When the Democrats tried to rein in Medicare costs the Republicans accused them of trying to create Death Panels. Now the parties have traded roles. The Democrats are playing for partisan advantage by attacking Paul Ryan's plan to cut Medicare costs. But Bill Clinton sees the health care cost problem as so huge we can't avoid cutting medical costs.

Hours before the Senate vote Wednesday, former president Bill Clinton urged Congress, including his fellow Democrats, not to “tippy-toe around” Medicare, saying the program “is part of a whole health-care system that has a toxic effect on inflation.” Speaking at a conference about fiscal challenges, Clinton warned Democrats to be wary of weighing the issue solely for political gain, adding: “We’ve got to deal with these things.”

This amounts to stating the obvious. But the American people don't want to accept that we can't all afford all the health care that we could possibly want. Yes, we are hitting limits. No, Americans don't want to accept it. So we continue on course toward a sovereign debt crisis.

The editorial board of the Washington Post says the Democrats are using their familiar Medicare scare tactic.

Democrats have effectively scared seniors as a political tactic for many years. Republicans turned the tables in 2010, using the Medicare scare tactic against Democrats. Now Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has given President Obama and his party a chance to reclaim the low ground, and they haven’t hesitated.

The problem is that as the population ages and medical costs per person continue to go up faster than the rate of inflation we can't afford the costs of catering to scare tactics. America is going to get poorer in part because we continue to live beyond our means. We live in the era of the Great Stagnation and we can't help to grow out of our fiscal problems.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2011 May 31 01:23 PM  Economics Health


Comments
tanabear said at May 31, 2011 9:55 PM:

Former President Clinton has left the political arena and he can afford to be somewhat candid in his comments and in his appraisal of our current fiscal situation. Elected representatives traffic in only one currency, votes. What do I do or say to get re-elected in the next election? Politicians know that Americans can be swayed by the most mindless, brain-dead, ridiculous scare tactics(Granny's going over the cliff...young people thrown to the wolves etc...) Ultimately, every country gets the government it deserves.

The responsibility for getting out of this financial mess lies solely with the 535 Senators and Congressmen in Washington. These are largely the same people who caused our problems to begin with. Paul Ryan, the great reformer, voted for Medicare Part D, TARP, the economic stimulus, the bailouts, war in Iraq, No Child Left Behind etc. He seems to go with the flow more than he moves against the grain. In the 2010 election, railing against government expansion seemed to be the in-thing to do. We'll see how long that lasts.

Randall Parker said at May 31, 2011 10:48 PM:

tanabear,

Agreed on the difference between people still trying to get votes versus those who no longer have the need.

This points out a failure with democracy. The voters are too dumb or too selfish. Elected officials have to do dumb stuff as a result.

We'd be better off if we had a 3rd house of Congress automatically populated by people who used to be Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, and governors. No need to run for election. Get 10 years to serve. Throw in some generals and admirals.

Black Death said at June 1, 2011 8:01 AM:

Clinton is right, of course, but when he was president, he didn't do anything about it. Easy for him to say it now. And Ryan was a spear-carrier for the disastrous Republican-controlled government of 2001-2007. He voted for all their stupid wars, bailouts, subsidies, wasteful government programs, etc. So now he's got religion?

Cynicism and demagoguery aside (if that's even possible in American politics), Ryan's plan to convert Medicare to some sort of set-amount fee-for-service program is worth considering. And if the Democrats don't like it, well, fine, what's their alternative? You know that when the "Washington Post" criticizes the Democrats for scare tactics, they must have really gone off the deep end.

Yet the "Post" struggles unsuccessfully to free itself from liberal dogmatism. Look at this:

Mr. Ryan’s budget, which the House passed, is wanting in many ways, as we’ve noted. It would expand the nation’s debt because it doesn’t acknowledge the need for more revenue.

....

"More revenue" is a polite euphemism for tax increases - just the right tonic for a struggling economy. And then there's this bit of liberal fantasy:

For its part, the Obama administration’s cost-control efforts would rely more heavily on streamlining and improving the delivery of medical services and on an expert panel with fast-track authority to come up with further measures if cost growth remains excessive.

....

When has the government ever been successful in "streamlining and improving" anything? The post office? The Defense Department? Amtrak? The Department of Education? And how about that "expert panel with fast-track authority to come up with further measures if cost growth remains excessive." I wonder who would be on that panel? Perhaps unelected bureaucrats with no political accountability? Perish the thought! And I wonder also what "further measures" would be initiated "if cost growth remains excessive?" Denial of care? Waiting lists? No access to the latest medical goodies? Heaven forbid! I'm sure the "Post" will clarify this in further editorials. Just don't hold your breath waiting for them.

Lou Pagnucco said at June 1, 2011 12:56 PM:

Randall,

"populated by people who used to be Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, and governors"??

Sure, why not select from a pool enriched with amoral, egocentric sociopaths?

Probably, though, too many are already drawing 7-figure lobbyist salaries trying to improve our lot.

Can't think of any dishonest statements from Clinton - couldn't find any on Google
- Bill's an excellent humanitarian source, perhaps less often correct than a stopped clock.

Randall Parker said at June 1, 2011 8:17 PM:

Lou,

Amoral sociopaths or most voters? Tough choice. Really tough choice.

Black Death,

When it comes to Medicare our only real choices are different ways to ration care. We can do Ryan's approach and limit taxpayer-subsidized buying power. Or we can do the Democrats' approach and ration by panels of technocrats who decide which treatments are cost effective. Or we can do rationing by waiting lines. Or ration by where you live and how well connected you are.

My guess is we will do all these things.

My advice: Save for old age medical costs. Be able to afford the specialist who doesn't accept Medicare payments. Be able to travel to some place where they sell treatments not available in the USA or Canada or wherever you find yourself.

Black Death said at June 2, 2011 6:39 AM:

Randall -

You are correct. We cannot afford to keep increasing forever what we spend on health care. As the Baby Boomers age, the demand for medical care will soar, and there just isn't enough to go around and please everybody. Medicare will become the new Medicaid - folks covered by this program already have big time problems getting access to care, especially for chronic conditions. Most doctors won't accept Medicaid patients, because they lose money on every one. But since these individuals are getting what amounts to charity care, no one complains too much. Medicare recipients are different - they have paid into the system all their lives, and, at 65, they expect the best. Too bad - they will be bitterly disappointed. Both Democrats and Republicans have created this monster, and now they are scrambling to avoid having to tell the American public the truth. One glaring example is the Medicare SGR - the formula that governs the amount of increase in reimbursements that doctors receive every year. This has been broken for years, but Congress has been unable to agree on a fix, so they pass an annual short-term adjustment. If they cut Medicare reimbursement, many doctors will dump their Medicare patients, and Congress doesn't want to be blamed. So they kick the can down the road for another year.

Of the current proposals, I like the Ryan plan better. Each Medicare recipient gets a voucher for a fixed amount towards health insurance. This will, if nothing else, encourage competition among insurance companies. Such plans may provide only a basic level of service, but that's all the country can afford. If you want a better plan, pay for it yourself. The Democrats continue to live on Fantasy Island - they think that if they keep tinkering with the bureaucracy, one day everything will magically fall into place, and everyone can have his or her cake and eat it too. Wrong! But, as you say, several forms of rationing will probably be required. Other countries do this (Canada, Great Britain, etc.), so why shouldn't it happen here? The best advice is to be able to afford to pay for most health care yourself.

It seems our leaders are unable to have an adult conversation with the American people. Everyone in Washington knows that the current system is woefully dysfunctional, yet no one wants to 'fess up that the glory days are over. Let's just go on playing pretend!

Lou Pagnucco said at June 2, 2011 9:50 AM:

Randall,

Your comment - "Amoral sociopaths or most voters? Tough choice. Really tough choice." - is exactly on point.

My bet is that this hijacked political system will continue to be run to impoverish the clueless average voter.

No wonder the foundation for a police state is so far along - extrapolating current trends is depressing.

FGHJTUJM said at June 7, 2011 8:24 AM:

Of the current proposals, I like the Ryan plan better. Each Medicare recipient gets a voucher for a fixed amount towards health insurance. This will, if nothing else, encourage competition among insurance companies. Such plans may provide only a basic level of service, but that's all the country can afford. If you want a better plan, pay for it yourself. The Democrats continue to live on Fantasy Island - they think that if they keep tinkering with the bureaucracy, one day everything will magically fall into place, and everyone can have his or her cake and eat it too.
http://health-med-news.com


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