Seniors don't need a calendar to know that the 2014 elections are just around the corner. The Democrats' desperate shouts that Republicans want to destroy Medicare are as predictable as autumn's falling leaves.
The irony here is that the "War on Seniors" is actually being waged by President Obama and his Congressional allies. It was Democrats who cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, much of it coming from the popular Medicare Advantage program which gives seniors choice in how they receive their Medicare benefits. The President was so worried about his own re-election in 2012 in places like Florida that he used executive authority to blunt the effect of those cuts until after his re-election.
The Obamacare law also created an unelected panel known as "IPAB" whose sole job is to cut Medicare payments to providers which will inevitably lead to rationing of services to current and future seniors.
Most recently, Obama and his allies have directed their war on seniors to Medicare Part D, the popular prescription drug benefit in Medicare. Relying on free market principles, Part D allows providers to compete with one another to deliver drug benefits to seniors. This competition has driven down prices and saved money for both seniors and the Medicare Trust Fund. Premiums for seniors average about $31 per month (far below the $56 originally forecast) and the cost to Medicare is more than 40% under budget.
Putting the power in the hands of seniors to choose a Part D plan that suits their needs has also resulted in satisfaction rates above 90%, unheard of for most government programs.
The successful free market "beachhead" in Medicare that Part D represents is anathema to command and control liberals. It's downright embarrassing to have a well-functioning part of Medicare existing alongside the hulking failure that the traditional Medicare system has become for younger workers.
Liberals have tried to undermine Part D by imposing "rebates" (Translation: price controls) similar to the failed Medicaid system. When the Republican House blocked the imposition of price controls, the Obama administration attempted through rulemaking to limit the number of plans from which seniors could choose. It was painful to watch CMS Director Tavenner's paternalistic argument before Congress that seniors somehow were not capable of deciding what was best for them. Former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin pointed out in an American Action Forum report that if the rule was put into place more than 14 million seniors would lose the Part D plan they voluntarily chose and are happy with.
Congressional Democrats faced with the prospect of cancellation notices going out to seniors just before the mid-term elections balked and joined Republicans and urged the withdrawal of the rule. The Obama administration backed down, at least until after the election.
Republican candidates under attack in the perennial Medi-Scare campaign would be wise to remind seniors of just who is waging this War on Seniors. And the next time their opponents start talking about the Republicans' "voucher plan" for Medicare, they should remind seniors that their plan for reform (which by the way is voluntary - seniors or younger workers can continue to choose traditional Medicare) is nothing more than an extension of the competition and choice seniors now enjoy with Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. And there is nothing scary in that.