Sunday, September 2nd, 2012
The 2012 Republican National Convention is now over. In three intense days of speeches and presentations, what did we learn about Republican plans for health care? Medicare? Medicaid? Social Security?
More than 60 percent of Americans age 60 and over voted in the 2010 general elections. This is by far the highest percentage of any age group. In contrast, far fewer than half of Americans under the age of 50 voted. So what seniors think matters a great deal to politicians. Whether they are rich or poor; whether they are in good health or have a life-threatening illness such as mesothelioma, seniors will matter a lot in the 2012 elections.
So what did the Republicans say about senior issues? Frankly, not much. Speakers leveled plenty of criticism at President Obama but were vague about what Republicans might do.
Let’s start with Medicare. On his website, Republican nominee Mitt Romney provides a general outline of substantial changes to the Medicare program, but no details. In his acceptance speech, Mr. Romney mentioned seniors, and Medicare, just once, in the same sentence. Speaking of President Obama, Mr. Romney said,
“His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation – and jobs – in medicine.”
The claim that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act cut $716 billion from the Medicare budget to fund “Obamacare” is false, as has been explained here already, and as a great many fact-checkers have explained also. In brief — the figures comes from the Congressional Budget Office, which said cost-saving measures in the Affordable Care Act should save the federal government about $716 billion in Medicare costs over ten years without cutting benefits. The CBO also has said that repealing “Obamacare” would put Medicare at greater risk of insolvency in the future.
It might be that the CBO is wrong, and it might be that the changes to Medicare in the Affordable Care Act will discourage physicians from taking Medicare patients in the future. Or maybe not; we’ll find out. But it’s a plain fact that the Obama Administration has cut no benefits whatsoever from Medicare. Nor has the Obama Administration pulled funds dedicated to benefits for seniors and given those funds to another program. This simply has not happened.
There was no mention of Medicaid in Mr. Romney’s speech. As explained in the last post, more than 6 million U.S. seniors receive Medicaid benefits, and care for seniors accounts for a quarter of Medicaid spending, mostly for long-term non-hospital care. On his website, Mr. Romney suggests limiting federal requirements on Medicaid and giving Medicaid money to the states in the form of block grants, something to be discussed in a future post. But, again, he provides few details.
Mr. Romney mentioned health care in his speech twice. He bemoaned rising health care costs and said, “we must rein in the skyrocketing cost of healthcare by repealing and replacing Obamacare.” But the Congressional Budget Office has said that repealing Obamacare would add $109 trillion to federal budget deficits over the period from 2013 to 2022.
And what’s the “replace”? We don’t know. Mr. Romney certainly didn’t say what “replace” might be in his speech, and his website provides only some general suggestions, none original, that mostly amount to tweaks of the old system. He has presented nothing that comes even close to a comprehensive plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
And, finally, there’s Social Security. Mr. Romney said nothing about Social Security in his speech, although on his website he said he favors raising the eligibility age even more and cutting benefits going to upper-income seniors.
Perhaps Mr. Romney will have more to say in his televised debates with President Obama. Otherwise, the details of what a President Romney might do for seniors remain a mystery.