With less than three months to Election Day, the presumptive presidential candidates of the two big business parties in the US are accusing each other of targeting Medicare for drastic cuts and placing the government-run health care program for the elderly in jeopardy. The truth is that the policies of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both pose grave dangers to Medicare—a program currently depended upon by some 50 million American seniors.
As always, in the arena of US electoral politics, the class issues are blurred by the candidates themselves and their media parrots. The Democratic president and his Republican opponent each attempts to strike a pose as the defender of the “middle class”—in this case, Medicare recipients. While an examination of their policies shows differences in how they intend to go about assaulting Medicare—and the speed with which the attack is to be mounted—both candidates agree that the cutbacks are necessary in order to “save” the program.
In the recent period, the Romney camp has gone on the offensive, denouncing the cutbacks to Medicare included as part of the Obama-backed health care bill signed into law in March 2010. Under the Affordable Care Act, $716 billion would be cut from 2013 to 2022 through reducing payments to hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, Medicare Advantage HMOs and other health care providers. The savings are to go toward funding subsidy for qualified individuals, who will be required to purchase private insurance on “exchanges,” or pay a penalty.
The White House claims that this gargantuan cut will result in better care for seniors. Through the setting up of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and the Independent Payment Advisory Board, “unnecessary” and “wasteful” treatments and procedures will be targeted for rationing and elimination. The long-term vision is to move away from traditional “fee for service” payments to a system where health care providers would be budgeted a fixed amount for the care of each patient.
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This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Wednesday: