So the disagreement isn’t about the problem. It’s about the solution. You might have heard about the approach Mitt Romney and I would take, which I will lay out for you. But you probably haven’t heard much about what President Obama would do. The president doesn’t talk much about what Obamacare will really mean for seniors. And anyone who understands the details knows why: People don’t like it.
The president’s health care law set up something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. It will be made up of 15 unelected bureaucrats. The president has said he that will appoint experts, but none of the 15 are required by law to have any medical training. And here’s the thing: As Medicare spending grows, this board is required to cut it. Unless Congress overrides these cuts with a supermajority vote, they automatically become law.
Think about what this means. I know AARP was just involved in the annual debate over the so-called doc fix. Back in 1997, Democrats and Republicans agreed to a budget deal that included large reductions in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients. Well, it soon became clear that these cuts would make it impossible for many doctors to keep treating Medicare patients. So every year, like clockwork, Congress postpones the cuts.
Some of us learned a lesson from that experience: Top-down, bureaucratic cuts to Medicare just don’t work. Providers stop providing care. That’s what happens. Unfortunately, some Democrats, including the president, learned a different lesson: They never gave up on their belief in top-down, bureaucratic cuts. But they did learn that these cuts are very unpopular.
So Obamacare represents a first step in their new approach: They want to take responsibility for these cuts out of the hands of your elected representatives and give it to unelected bureaucrats. They want to let them make the decisions — and let them take the heat.
Here’s Medicare’s chief actuary again, on what that would mean: These cuts could be so severe, he said, that they could jeopardize access to care for beneficiaries. I deal with actuaries a lot as chairman of the House Budget Committee. They tend to be mild-mannered folks. So when one says something like that, here’s what it means in plain English: Red Alert — do not proceed with this plan.
But you know President Obama’s slogan, right? Forward. Forward into a future where seniors are denied the care they earned because a bureaucrat decided it wasn’t worth the money. So now you’ve got the full story about President Obama’s approach. Let me tell you what Mitt Romney and I believe — and what we will do if we are elected 46 days from now.
When I think about Medicare, I don’t just think about charts and graphs and numbers. My thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet. She had Alzheimer’s and moved in with my mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all those little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my mom today. My mom is here with me today. She is a senior from Florida. That time in my life, when my Nana lived with my mom and me, is when we grew the closest. I’m very proud of my mom, and I’m happy she is having a great retirement. Medicare is a big part of her security.
Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours. Our plan keeps the protections that have made Medicare a guaranteed promise for seniors throughout the years. And let me be clear, it makes no changes for those in or near retirement.