Suppressed Information: Muddling Medicare Part 2

Analyzing what the Romney-Ryan ticket would actually DO to the Medicare system as we know it is difficult because there’s a big difference between speechifying and informing.  The Republican proposals are a fact-checker’s nightmare because the GOP campaign refuses to be nailed down to many specifics.

The Romney Plan is just like the Ryan Plan — almost, nearly identical. No, completely different! [Salon] The Romney/Ryan plan would ultimately cost seniors some $60,000? [TP] No, maybe not, because the public is looking at the numbers from the “old” plan.  Well, what numbers should we be looking at?

Perhaps we’re supposed to look at the White Board?

“The whiteboard had four quadrants, with a column for his plan and another for Obama’s plan, and a row for how the two plans would affect “seniors” and the “next gen.” Under Obama’s plan, Romney wrote “$716 billion cut” next to current seniors and “bankruptcy” next to next generation. For his plan, he wrote “no change” for current seniors and “solvent” for future generations.”  [Salon]

First, we know the charge that the Obama Administration cut $716 from Medicare is bogus.  We also know that under at least one of the incarnations of the Ryan Budget almost the same savings were found in the current Medicare program.  We know that under the Administration’s plan the savings are returned to the Medicare program, part of them fill in the infamous Do-Nut hole in prescription drug coverage.  We’re left guessing if the Romney “plan” — whatever it might turn out to be — would keep the savings for the benefits side of Medicare program or follow the Ryan Plan and have the savings revert to the Treasury to pay down the federal deficit.

I’m not the only one who finds the various expressions of Governor Romney’s position confusing.

“First, there is the issue of the $716 billion the president’s health care law will take from Medicare to cover costs across the board. Ryan’s budget cuts the same amount from Medicare, but rather than re-investing the money, it is used – or not used – to ease the deficit.” [Salon]

Romney is less clear about where the cuts would go, or if there would be cuts at all.

“Governor Romney believes Obamacare was a terrible mistake and has repeatedly made clear he believes it must be repealed in its entirety. This includes,” a campaign official said, “repeal of President Obama’s $716 billion in cuts that slash provider payments and Medicare Advantage and threaten seniors’ access to care.”  [ABC]

The last line approaches word salad but contain a kernel of truth.  The Obama Administration does cut payments to providers — NOT beneficiaries, and cuts the subsidies to insurance corporations for Medicare Advantage policies.  Whether this “threatens seniors’ access to care” is highly debatable.

David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times opens his article on the contortions of the Romney campaign with regard to the Ryan plan with a cartoon showing Romney in “Olympic Flip Flop Mode.”   Horsey may have also found the core of the problem:

“Not that he would stick with it if it brings him political heat. Almost daily, Mitt Romney reinforces the perception of himself as a man with no deep political convictions. There seems to be no position he will not give up if it has become a political liability. Much has been said about his switcheroos on healthcare, immigration, gay rights and Planned Parenthood since he was governor of Massachusetts. Anyone who thinks he really knows what Romney would do as president regarding Medicare or any number of other major issues, must be using a top-notch crystal ball.” [LAT]

Why be so coy about the specific proposals to change the Medicare program, why hide the details?   Perhaps we are in Romney Land now in which details and specifics are to be kept hidden lest they be criticized?  As in what happened when Romney was about to discuss his energy proposals?

“I know that we have members of the media here right now, so I’m not going to go through that in great detail,” Romney said, according to a pool report from the event.”  [HuffPo]

OK, we could think former Governor Romney didn’t want reporters letting his cat out of the bag before the big roll out.  However, when the big roll out day came — poof!  The Secret Energy Plan was little more than an extension of Drill Baby Drill [WaPo] as if the reporters in the room couldn’t have figured that out for themselves.

There’s a pattern developing with the Romney Campaign which a convention isn’t going to ameliorate.   The Romney Campaign is going for style points over substance, with a serious case of obfuscation in the process.

No, “you people” don’t need to see my tax returns because you’ll just pick over them and find things with which to attack me.”

No, “you people” don’t need to hear the specifics of my Medicare proposals, which are almost identical, very close to, and completely different from the Ryan Plan because you’ll just pick them apart and use the specifics to attack me.

No, “you people” don’t need to hear more about what tax loopholes I would close to make up for the revenue lost by maintaining tax breaks for the top 2%, “I’ll get there when the time comes.”

No, “you people” don’t need to know about which cabinet departments I would eliminate because if that information is released to the public then there will be serious issues raised, and I’ll be attacked.

No, “you people” don’t need to know the specifics of my budgeting plans to reduce the deficit, because they “can’t be scored.”

No, “you people” don’t need to know the specifics of my immigration policy, my education policy, my trade policy, my fill in the blank policy… because what you don’t know won’t come back to bite me. And, “I Will Not Be Bitten.”

There’s something ironic about the  Etch-A-Sketch candidate using a White Board to “explain” his Medicare policy — both can be erased.  What’s a fact checker to do when the “facts” about policy proposals can be altered, changed, hidden, and erased whenever it is politically expedient to do so?

What are voters supposed to do?  There’s a patronizing tone to all this, “Now, children, you sit quietly and don’t whine. Daddy will always do what’s best for you.   … Trust him.”

Reagan was right on one point: Trust but Verify.

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