Monday, March 01, 2010

Rep. Paul Ryan's pointed questions went conspicuously unanswered at the big health care summit.

Rebuttals To Ryan? We're Still Waiting

Rep. Paul Ryan's pointed questions went conspicuously unanswered at the big health care summit. AP View Enlarged Image

Politics: Many viewers were wowed by the president's performance at the health care summit, his command of facts and ability to rebut every point the Republicans made. We must have been watching another channel.

'Obama dominates the room at health care summit" was the headline on a Reuters dispatch that found the president "always in command not only of the room but also the most intricate policy details, as he personally rebutted every point he disagreed with."

In a Washington Post column titled "Professor Obama schools lawmakers on health care reform," Dana Milbank marveled at how the president "controlled the microphone and the clock, (using) both skillfully to limit the Republicans' time, to rebut their arguments and to always have the last word."

Milbank went on to tell how Sen. John McCain got his "knuckles rapped" by the learned professor, how Sen. Mitch McConnell was made to "look small in his chair" and how various other Republican low-achievers felt the sting of Obama's "big rhetorical paddle."

But neither Reuters nor Milbank — nor many others, it seems — noticed Obama's conspicuous non-rebuttal to Rep. Paul Ryan.

It was the Wisconsin congressman who made the most pointed remarks about Obama's reform proposal. For example:

"This bill does not control costs (or) reduce deficits. Instead, (it) adds a new health care entitlement when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have."

• "The bill has 10 years of tax increases, about half a trillion dollars, with 10 years of Medicare cuts, about half a trillion dollars, to pay for six years of spending. The true 10-year cost (is) $2.3 trillion."

• "The bill takes $52 billion in higher Social Security tax revenues and counts them as offsets. But that's really reserved for Social Security. So either we're double-counting them or we don't intend on paying those Social Security benefits."

• "The bill takes $72 billion from the CLASS Act (long-term care insurance) benefit premiums and claims them as offsets."

• "The bill treats Medicare like a piggy bank, (raiding) half a trillion dollars not to shore up Medicare solvency, but to spend on this new government program."

• "The chief actuary of Medicare (says) as much as 20% of Medicare providers will either go out of business or have to stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries."

• "Millions of seniors who have chosen Medicare Advantage (Medicare through a private insurer) will lose the coverage that they now enjoy."

• "When you strip out the double-counting and ... gimmicks, the full 10-year cost of the bill has a $460 billion deficit. The second 10-year cost of this bill has a $1.4 trillion deficit."

• "The 'doc fix' (restoring cuts in Medicare reimbursements) costs $371 billion ... a price tag (that) made the score look bad. (So) that provision was taken out, and (put) in stand-alone legislation. But ignoring these costs does not remove them from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending does not reduce spending."

• "Are we bending the cost curve down or are we bending the cost curve up? If you look at your own chief actuary at Medicare, we're bending it up. He's claiming that we're going up $222 billion, adding more to the unsustainable fiscal situation we have."

In response to all this, Obama basically talked up the benefits of Medicare Advantage. Call us sticklers, but we expected something a little more, uh, professorial.


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