You've seen hypocrisy in politics before. But rarely have you seen the brazen kind Republicans just showed on the House floor, when they voted for Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity."
Ryan's budget calls for repealing most of the Affordable Care Act, including both the insurance coverage expansions and creation of an independent board to help restrain Medicare costs. But it would leave in place the rest of the planned reductions in Medicare spending, at least for the next ten years. Among those cuts are $136 billion in reductions to Medicare Advantage plans.
As you may know, Medicare Advantage plans are the private insurance alternative, already in existence, for seniors who prefer to opt out of the traditional, government-run insurance plan. About a quarter of all seniors now use them. The government pays insurers a fee for every senior who enrolls, but studies have shown the government is paying too much. That's how supporters of the Affordable Care Act have justified the $136 billion reduction.
Throughout the health care debate, Republicans not only rejected these and other arguments for Medicare cuts. They made the cuts a centerpiece of their attacks on Democrats, as the Associated Press noted recently:
"The new law's massive Medicare cuts will fall squarely on the backs of seniors, millions of whom will be forced off their current Medicare coverage," the GOP wrote in their Pledge to America, an election-season manifesto. ...
In addition to the Pledge to America, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and individual Republican candidates all criticized the cuts.
The National Republican Congressional Committee featured them in ads attacking Democrats in numerous campaign commercials, and some individual candidates made use of the cuts as well.
Ryan and his supporters claim the Medicare reductions in the new Republican budget are different, because Democrats used their cuts to finance more government spending. And that's partially true. Although Democrats bolstered Medicare drug coverage and arguably put in place policies that will lead to higher quality care, they used the bulk of the saved Medicare money to offset the cost of subsidizing insurance for working-age Americans.
But, by the same logic, Republicans are also diverting most of the Medicare Advantage money away from Medicare. They're using that money to underwrite the cost of tax cuts for the wealthy.
So Democrats are cutting Medicare to make sure everybody has health insurance, while Republicans are cutting Medicare to make sure millionaires have tax cuts. This is really an argument the Republicans want to make?