Conservative Hypocrisy: “Protecting” Medicare
August 25, 2009 - 10:26am ET
Seniors are the only group in our society that has a guarantee of good health coverage and they certainly appreciate it. They love their government-run health care program, even if they don’t always realize Medicare is a government program.
Ironically, Conservatives are using older Americans’ love of their government-run health insurance plan to fight health care reform that would give others the right to choose a similar program for themselves. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has put out a “Seniors’ Health Care Bill of Rights” in an attempt to pit that powerful demographic against reform with fears that it will affect their Medicare benefits.
But it doesn’t. AARP, which represents millions of older Americans, put out a statement in response titled “AARP Glad to Have GOP on the Side of Older Americans,” which affirms:
“AARP agrees with Chairman Michael Steele’s goals for reforming our health care system, and we are pleased nothing in the bills that have been proposed would bring about the scenarios the RNC is concerned about.”
Another non-profit organization that fights to protect the Medicare program and its beneficiaries, the Medicare Rights Center, also felt the need to put out a statement disabusing the lies:
“Opponents of reform are playing on the fears of older adults that they will lose the health security they now enjoy under Medicare. False claims that health reform legislation will ration or deny medical treatment for people with Medicare have obscured the very real improvements to Medicare in legislation now before Congress. The health reform bill that the House of Representatives will vote on when they return in September would expand Medicare coverage for prescription drugs, improve access to primary care doctors and strengthen Medicare’s financial health. There are no cuts to Medicare benefits in any health reform bill now before Congress. The debate over health insurance reform should be based on facts, not fear.”
(For more details on how health care reform helps people with Medicare, see this fact-sheet from the Medicare Rights Center.)
Beyond using fear of losing a government-run program to oppose the creation of a similar government-run program, the bigger irony here is that Conservatives have always opposed Medicare.
Conservatives opposed the very creation of the program, labeling Medicare socialized medicine. The Wonk Room gives a detailed history of that opposition, including several quotes from prominent Conservatives:
Ronald Reagan: “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” 
George H.W. Bush: Described Medicare in 1964 as “socialized medicine.” 
Barry Goldwater: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink.” 
Bob Dole: In 1996, while running for the Presidency, Dole openly bragged that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” 
Just last year, during his presidential campaign, John McCain proposed to cut Medicare to pay for his health plan, precisely what the RNC is falsely accusing the President and congressional leaders of doing.
In addition, Conservatives have opposed improvements to Medicare, such as allowing the program to negotiate for lower drug prices, as well as fiscally responsible changes, such as cutting overpayments to private Medicare plans.
Conservatives have even gone so far as to call Medicare the devil’s pawn:
“Let’s say you’re the devil, and you want to corrupt the American republic. How would you do it? According to David Hyman, you might create something like Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly. In Medicare Meets Mephistopheles, Hyman wryly suggests that Medicare may be the greatest trick the devil has ever played: a massive government program that promotes all seven deadly sins as it drives the United States toward financial ruin.”
So even if we were to take Conservatives at their word and accept that they truly have come to cherish Medicare, we must still ask them why they oppose giving a Medicare-like option to the rest of the population?
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