By Doug Bandow
The American Spectator
President Obama spoke via satellite to the AARP “Life@50+” convention last Friday morning and I was foolish enough to turn on my patented BS Detector during the event. Unlike the “fact checkers” employed by the MSM, its special BUNK software was written such that it could recognize White House talking points and separate such input from actual facts. It turns out, however, to have had a fatal design flaw. Although I had successfully tested it on several pathological liars, and even a couple of lawyers, it simply didn’t have the capacity to process the volume of BS contained in a typical Obama speech. The machine was a smoking hulk by the time the President finished answering the final question from the AARP audience.
I probably should have turned it off after observing its reaction to Obama’s first claim about Obamacare’s positive effect on Medicare: “We’ve added years to the life of the program by getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies that weren’t making people healthier …” This preposterous assertion, an attempt to put a positive spin on Obamacare’s $200 billion in cuts to the popular Medicare Advantage (MA) program, caused the device to whistle, buzz, and hop around like R2D2 on steroids. And when the President made the additional claim that, “over the next 10 years, we expect the average Medicare beneficiary to save nearly $5,000 as a result of this law,” the machine began to make an odd whimpering noise.
It should have been no surprise that the device responded thus to Obama’s Medicare Advantage lie. As David Hogberg reports at Investor’s Business Daily, “ObamaCare imposes major cuts on the popular Medicare Advantage program, and while the Obama administration has largely delayed them until after the election, enrollees will lose an average $515 in benefits in 2013, according to an IBD analysis.” MA is, of course, a program that allows Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in plans run by private insurance companies. They are very popular, particularly among lower income and minority seniors, because of their flexibility and lower out-of-pocket expenses. Nonetheless, “ObamaCare will cut MA by at least $7.4 billion in 2013.”
Hogberg’s allusion to a delay in these massive cuts until after the election involves a legally dubious Obama administration tactic that I wrote about last April. As the election approached, the President’s re-election team realized the seniors most likely to be affected by the cuts were due to find out about them just weeks before Election Day. Knowing that this would undoubtedly produce a lot of votes for Mitt Romney, they began casting about for a plan to prevent this disaster. HHS Commissar Sebelius came to the rescue with an $8.3 billion “demonstration project” that would temporarily restore MA funds so that seniors in key states wouldn’t begin losing their MA benefits just before it was time to vote.
My BS detection device didn’t actually begin to smoke until Obama started talking about the mythical Medicare trust fund: “We lengthened the life of the trust fund by eight years.” This lie not only caused serious damage to my machine’s internal circuitry, it was too much even for the administration’s lickspittles over atPolitico. Recognizing this as Obamacare’s notorious double-counting scam, David Nather points out that the chief actuary of CMS says it is “not possible to count the Medicare cuts as paying for the health care law and extending the trust fund at the same time. ‘In practice, the improved HI financing cannot be simultaneously used to finance other Federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions) and to extend the trust fund.'”
Paul Ryan reiteratedthe same point during his own speech to Friday’s AARP audience, “You can’t spend the same dollar twice… You don’t have to take my word for it. Ask the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.” This is why Ryan continues to hammer home the point that Obamacare raids Medicare for $716 billion. It is this huge amount of money that Obama and his accomplices claim that they can use to extend the life of Medicare while simultaneously using it to pay for part of Obamacare. Ryan wrapped up his commentary on that topic as follows: “If anyone tries to tell you that ObamaCare strengthened Medicare, just ask them, ‘Where’s the other $716 billion?'”
Sadly, it was the President’s claims about Ryan’s bipartisan plan to save Medicare that precipitated the final meltdown of my BS Detector. Ignoring the fact that every health policy expert worthy of the name has debunked the claim, Obama told the convention’s attendees that Ryan and Mitt Romney want to turn Medicare into a voucher system: “Now, my opponents have pledged to repeal [ObamaCare]… which means billions in new profits for insurance companies, but also would mean immediately increased costs for seniors and would bankrupt the Medicare trust fund in just four years. And what would they replace it with? Their plan replaces guaranteed Medicare benefits with a voucher that wouldn’t keep up with costs.”
This is a brazen lie, and the President knows it. Factcheck.org, an outfit that is by no means biased in the direction of the GOP,confirms that the plan involves no vouchers: ‘Under Ryan’s plan the federal government would pay insurance companies directly, just as it now pays for most of the cost of health insurance for millions of federal workers and retirees.” So, why did the President repeat this stretcher? During the question-and-answer period following his speech, Ryan matter-of-factly explained why Obama and other Democrats keep repeating it: “Voucher is a poll-tested word basically designed to scare today’s seniors.… A voucher is when you go to your mail boxes, you get a check and you are on your own. No one is proposing that.”
Ryan went on to explain that the GOP formula for saving Medicare would merely turn the program into one similar to that which is enjoyed by federal employees, while introducing free market reforms that have already been shown to work under Medicare Part D. He also reminded the audience that no one currently in the Medicare program would be affected in any way by the plan. Such candor from a politician who actually understands health care was refreshing. But it was too late to save my new BS Detector from the tsunami of manure poured on the AARP convention by Obama. Its smoldering remains sit there, a silent rebuke for my rash decision to submit it to such a trial. I will now give it a decent burial.