Obama has tried valiantly to keep discussion of cutting Medicare focused on the idea of cutting waste and waste alone, but the fact that the CBO (and Obama himself) concede that the bill on the table is not adequately funded in the first 10 years or beyond, has some folks worried.
Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey gave credence to seniors' worries with this comment at a Colorado town hall Wednesday:
"There's going to be some people who are going to have to give up some things, honestly, for all of this to work," Markey said at a Congress on Your Corner event at CSU. "But we have to do this because we're Americans."
While reminiscent of Joe Biden's famously politically astute "higher taxes are patriotic" line, I'm not sure how well this is going to go over with Obamacare skeptics, particularly of the senior variety.
It will make them wonder how much of the idea of cutting Medicare benefits is really a "myth," as the president says:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay? So I just want seniors to be clear about this, because if you look at the polling, it turns out seniors are the ones who are most worried about health care reform. And that's understandable, because they use a lot of care, they've got Medicare, and it's already hard for a lot of people even on Medicare because of the supplements and all the other costs out of pocket that they're still paying.
So I just want to assure we're not talking about cutting Medicare benefits. We are talking about making Medicare more efficient, eliminating the insurance subsidies, working with hospitals so that they are changing some of the reimbursement practices.
Can Obama really blame seniors for being suspicious about whether cutting waste in Medicare (which I'm in favor of) means cutting benefits? After all, Democrats have been dedicated to the demagoguery of just that equation whenever cutting costs has come up in the past.
It has put Obama in the strange position of saying, Well, all cuts to social programs were evil and harmful until I came along, but now they're to serve a greater good, so get on board, oldsters!
In another ironic Medicare twist, Obama's quest to cut Medicare waste may undercut another selling point of the left's beloved "public" government-run insurance option. Obama has argued repeatedly that Medicare's low administrative costs are proof of government's efficiency, but the level of the administrative costs is due to a combination of fuzzy government accounting and the very lack of oversight Obama claims to want to eliminate to save money. By employing more people to oversee Medicare to cut waste and fraud, Obama will eliminate the administrative savings he's been touting to sell yet another government health program.
Even the New York Times conceded as much in a 1997 story about the fraud and waste that has long plagued Medicare:
The Federal agency that oversees Medicare points to the program's tiny overhead as proof it is well administered. But recent reports suggest that Medicare's administrative costs are shockingly low, below 2 percent of costs, because Medicare is shockingly unsupervised. The amount of fraud and waste is huge, and supervision of the quality of medical care provided recipients is largely nonexistent.
Just keep squeezing that balloon. Welcome to government efficiency and truth in accounting. But if you give into your skeptic side, you're just succumbing to "myths" and "fear-mongering."