You’re no doubt familiar with the old saying “like rats deserting a sinking ship.” Events of the last 24 hours confirm that, in today’s politics, the S.S. Paul Ryan is taking on water, and Republicans are scurrying for the life preservers.
First up: our good friend Scott Brown. Over the last week or so, we’ve chronicled Brown’s marvelous adventures in obfuscation when it comes to his position on Paul Ryan’s Medicare Destruction Act of 2011. First, he was for it, to the point where he actually thanked God that Ryan had the fortitude to do what he did. Then, he clammed up and wouldn’t say where he stood. Then, he was pretty sure he was against it, though he refused to say how he would vote on it.
Finally, this morning, in an op-ed published in Politico (of all places), Senator Brown declares flatly that:
I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote “no” on his budget.
Nothing like a Senator who stands on principle, eh? And competing with Scott Brown in the flip-flop department is Jane Corwin, the Republican running in tomorrow’s NY-26 special election. As I’ve discussed previously, this race was supposed to a lock for the GOP, but the Democrat has run hard on Medicare, and astonishingly, is ahead in recent polls. Now, Corwin is in full retreat, claiming that she never backed a voucher plan for Medicare. That will certainly come as a surprise to Ryan, who fundraised for Corwin on the assumption that she was in his corner. And yesterday, even Ryan himself started inching away from his own proposal.
Anyway, Scott Brown’s stated reasons for voting “no” on RyanCare are actually pretty funny. Let’s go through them on the flip.
First, I fear that as health inflation rises, the cost of private plans will outgrow the government premium support— and the elderly will be forced to pay ever higher deductibles and co-pays. Protecting those who have been counting on the current system their entire adult lives should be the key principle of reform.
Well, duh. That is exactly the criticism that has been leveled at Ryan’s plan since the day it was announced. Here’s one from almost a year ago – July of 2010:
The Ryan plan would eliminate traditional Medicare, most of Medicaid, and all of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), converting these health programs largely to vouchers that low-income households, seniors, and people with disabilities could use to help buy insurance in the private health insurance market. Under Ryan’s plan, the value of the vouchers would fall further behind the rising cost of health care with each passing year, so they would purchase less health coverage over time.
And there’s tons more out there exactly like that, including a speech by President Obama that Brown surely did not somehow miss. So, welcome aboard, Senator, but I’m honestly not sure why it took you so long to get here.
What are Brown’s other reasons for jilting Ryan?
Second, Medicare has already taken significant cuts to help pay for Obama’s health care plan. The president and Congress cut a half trillion dollars to the private side of Medicare — meaning seniors are at risk of losing their Medicare Advantage coverage.
This makes no sense at all, as far as I can tell. You can’t use Obama’s health care plan to argue against Ryan’s proposal, since a primary supposition of Ryan’s plan is the “full repeal” of Obama’s plan. Logic fail.
Another key principle is that seniors should not have to bear a disproportionate burden.
Well, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. I mean, seniors are the only people who get Medicare, so by definition, seniors get all the benefit, and bear all the burden, of anything that happens with respect to Medicare. Also, disproportionate with respect to what? Brown never tells us.
We should start by making improvements to the traditional Medicare plan.
The Government Accountability Office has estimated that nearly 10 percent, or $47 billion, of annual Medicare spending is nothing but waste, fraud or abuse…. We need Medicare administrators to work to prevent these improper payments….
Ah – waste, fraud, and abuse. Excellent plan, Senator! Gosh, such creative thinking. If only someone in Washington had ever had that idea before.
We can also find savings by increasing congressional oversight of how Medicare reimburses providers; …
Yes, let’s have Congress get more intimately involved in administering the Medicare program. That is sure to work well, since Congress is so excellent at running stuff.
… as well as improving the quality of medical care to seniors.
Gosh, another brilliant idea! Who is this genius, and how has the Republic survived to this point without the benefit of his astounding insights?
I’d also institute tort reform to limit frivolous lawsuits.
Wow – another blazing burst of creativity, resulting in a proposal that nobody has ever thought of before.
There are other ideas from members of both parties that can be incorporated into a bipartisan plan — which has a good chance of passing Congress.
Huh, I wonder what they are. It sure would be interesting to know. Too bad Brownie doesn’t give us any clues.
I conclude from this op-ed that Scott Brown has, basically, no idea how to deal with the Medicare problem. What he does have ideas about is getting reelected in 2012, and he is a good enough politician to realize that any notion of his backing the destruction of Medicare would make getting reelected much, much harder. So he pitches Ryan and the House Republicans under the bus.
It’s all about Scott. Always has been.