McCain photoThe health care reform debate is underway in the Senate and it’s going to be a long hard slog for those trying to sort fact from fiction, spin from solutions and politics from profits.   Consider exhibit #1.  Senator John McCain’s amendment to send the health care bill back to the Finance committee to remove $491 billion in proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.  But wait...why the outrage over these savings when the Senator proposed much larger cuts in Medicare just a year ago on the presidential campaign trail?  The Wonk Room describes it this way: 
“In October 2008, the McCain campaign announced that the Senator would pay for his health plan “with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid…in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs.” Those cuts would have reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending by as much as 20% over 10 years and cut into benefits. In 1997, McCain (along with many Democrats) voted for a series of Medicare cuts as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. That act decreased Medicare spending by 12.7% over 10 years and instituted the kind of payment updates that the Senate bill is now recommending. In 1995, moreover, Republicans sought to cut 14% from projected Medicare spending over seven years and force millions of elderly recipients into managed health care programs or HMOs. As Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich admitted, “We don’t want to get rid of it in round one because we don’t think it’s politically smart,” he said. “But we believe that it’s going to wither on the vine because we think [seniors] are going to leave it voluntarily.”
One key difference between what many consider “bad cuts” (now) and “good cuts” (then) is that current proposals would trim the billions in wasteful subsidies now going to private insurers in Medicare Advantage.  It’s no coincidence that those who created these subsidies for the insurance industry in the first place (subsidies which steal years off the trust fund and add $36 to the premiums of every Medicare beneficiary) are now the most vocal “supporters” of Medicare—read private insurers in Medicare. We’ve sent a letter to the Senate  reminding Senators that the National Committee and it's members and supporters continue to oppose benefit cuts in Medicare and since that is not what is proposed they should reject Senator McCain’s amendment. 
“The National Committee opposes any cuts to Medicare benefits.  Protecting the Medicare program, along with Social Security, have been our key mission since our founding 25 years ago and remain our top priority today.  In fact, these programs are critical lifelines to today’s retirees, and we believe they will be even more important to future generations.  But we also know that the cost of paying for seniors' health care keeps rising, even with Medicare paying a large portion of the bill.  That is why we at the National Committee support savings in the Medicare program that will help lower costs.  Wringing out fraud, waste and inefficiency in Medicare is critical for both the federal government and for every Medicare beneficiary.    America's seniors have a major stake in the health care reform debate as the skyrocketing costs of health care are especially challenging for those on fixed incomes.  Not a single penny of the savings in the Senate bill will come out of the pockets of beneficiaries in the traditional Medicare program.  The Medicare savings included in H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will positively impact millions of Medicare beneficiaries by slowing the rate of increase in out-of-pocket costs and improving benefits; and it will extend the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by five years.  To us, this is a win-win for seniors and the Medicare program.”