Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NV-Sen: Still Mediscared

Surprise! As the 2012 campaign approaches the home stretch, Shelley Berkley releases this ad. Not only does it respond to the recent (false) accusations made by Dean Heller, but it also reminds viewers of Heller's own record on Medicare.

Heller has been peddling the same lies his G-O-TEA colleagues have been saying about the Affordable Care Act and its effect on Medicare. But this time, Berkley isn't letting the lies fly.

Last September, Joe Heck tried to make the same argument. What he tried to do then, and what Heller is trying to do now, is fudge numbers in hopes of obfuscating their support for the Romney-Ryan plan to destroy Medicare by privatizing and "voucher-izing" it.

The problem for Heller, just as it was for Heck, is that his rhetoric doesn't match reality. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a report showing how repealing the Affordable Care Act (as Heller advocates) would actually CUT Medicare benefits for seniors while simultaneously raising costs by reinstating insurance company bailouts that the ACA eliminated. In reality, the ACA actually extends the life of Medicare and strengthens it by providing seniors with more health care while also cutting the waste and abuse in the "Medicare Advantage" insurance industry giveaways.

Again, Dean Heller is just trying to confuse voters by muddying the waters on Medicare. Here is what he doesn't want you to remember about the Romney-Ryan-Heller-Heck G-O-TEA plan to gut Medicare.

Beginning 2023, the guaranteed Medicare benefit would be transformed into a government-financed “premium support” system. Seniors currently under the age of 55 could use their government contribution to purchase insurance from an exchange of private plans or traditional fee-for-service Medicare. But the budget does not take sufficient precautions to prevent insurers from cherry-picking the the healthiest beneficiaries from traditional Medicare and leaving sicker applicants to the government. As a result, traditional Medicare costs could skyrocket, forcing even more seniors out of the government program. The budget also adopts a per capita cost cap of GDP growth plus 0.5 percent, without specifying how it would enforce it. This makes it likely that the cap would limit the government contribution provided to beneficiaries and since the proposed growth rate is much slower than the projected growth in health care costs, CBO estimates that new beneficiaries could pay up to $1,200 more by 2030 and more than $5,900 more by 2050. Finally, the budget would also raise Medicare’s age of eligibility to 67. Some seniors who would no longer be eligible for Medicare would pick up employer coverage—but they would pay more in premiums and cost sharing. And since the budget would scale back or eliminate other coverage options, hundreds of thousands of seniors would become uninsured.

The budget would eliminate the exiting matching-grant financing structure of Medicaid and would instead give each state a pre-determined block grant that does not keep up with actual health care spending. This would shift some of the burden of Medicaid’s growing costs to the states, forcing them to —in the words of the CBO —make cutbacks that “involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased cost sharing by beneficiaries—all of which would reduce access to care.” The block grants would reduce federal Medicaid spending by $810 billion over 10 years, decreasing federal Medicaid spending by more than 35 percent over the decade. As a result, states could reduce enrollment by more than 14 million people, or almost 20 percent—even if they are were able to slow the growth in health care costs substantially.

This is the brutal reality that Dean Heller doesn't want you to see. So instead of describing what's actually in his party's plan to decimate "reform" senior health care, he's continuing to peddle lies about the Affordable Care Act. However, it now looks like he won't be able to get away with it any more.

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