Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's Too Late, Baby

You might want to sit down for this. The San Francisco Chronicle has discovered that Obamacare is being paid for (although the money isn't there...) by, among other things, massive cuts in Medicare and Medicare Advantage. This has some retired people in a panic. And, naturally, the cuts are expected to hit worst in California: Medicare Cuts Have More In California On Edge

About half the funds to pay for the nation's new $940 billion health law will come from reduced federal government spending on the Medicare program - and, although it's too early to gauge the impact on the 45 million Medicare beneficiaries, the idea is creating anxiety among many of them.

Much of the worry - from both supporters and critics of the health insurance overhaul - centers on the government's plans to cut payments for Medicare managed-care policies called Medicare Advantage. These plans, offered through private companies, cover 1.5 million Californians and just over 10 million nationwide.

"I'm concerned about what changes in services might occur. I'm also concerned about the rise in premiums because I'm on a real fixed income," said Ralph Miller, 69, of Vallejo, a longtime Kaiser member who favors the new law. "I'm just worried about what kind of impact it's going to have on my bottom line."

Jed Christensen, 75, of Napa who describes himself as a conservative Republican, said he expects his health care costs to go up. "We're not getting the answers. I'd like to know so we can budget for this."

The new law proposes $136 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over the next decade. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started the process this month by announcing plans to freeze Medicare Advantage reimbursements to insurers for 2011 at this year's rates.

The cuts could have a disproportionate impact in California because a greater percentage of the Californians on Medicare - 34 percent compared with the national average of 23 percent - choose Medicare Advantage policies because of the state's long history and familiarity with health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, like Kaiser Permanente.

(sarcasm on) Way to stay current on the news, Chron. (sarcasm off). When Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and many others pointed this out, they were castigated as uninformed haters. They also managed to learn the above before the bill was passed, incredibly enough. The Chron like virtually all MSM outlets saw no reason to discuss the substance of the bill before its passage, preferring instead to focus on procedural nonsense and burble occasionally about "history." Thanks a-freakin'-lot for keeping the public well informed with "important" stories like how black congressmen made a brave stand for civil rights by making up stories about racial slurs.

This is not to say Medicare cuts should not have been part of health care reform of some sort. The Medicare system is unsustainable, after all. Conservatives have demanded such cuts practically since the program was started. But, Obama's cuts are not being used to cut spending, but only to partially fund an even more unsustainable entitlement! (Gah!) Plus, they are coming all at once, and will affect seniors who pretty much planned their retirements around the promise that Medicare would be available. If they're going to be better off with Obamacare, no one seems to be out there reassuring them. Not too compassionate, if you ask me.

The worst, though, is that there was virtually no public discussion or debate of this outside of talk radio and the conservative blogosphere. It's just one of many things now being presented as a fait accompli now that "we" have been able to read the bill and see all of the wonderful things contained therein. Nice of the press to help time the flow of information, so as to not disturb the progress of "history."

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