Yet another reason why Republicans were foolish to oppose the health care overhaul on the grounds that it cut Medicare: Democrats were sure to use the same line against them in future health care skirmishes. And whaddayaknow, Senate Democrats have sent a letter to incoming GOP House Speaker John Boehner warning that repealing last year's health care bill would mean losing the law’s expansion of the Medicare drug benefit:
The new law provides that seniors will receive a 50-percent discount on the brand name drugs that they purchase while stuck in the "donut hole" and thus will save them thousands of dollars starting in 2011. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, seniors who have high prescription drug spending will save as much as $12,300 over the next 10 years and seniors with low drug costs will save an average of $2,400 over 10 years.
This is no minor reform. But almost as soon as it has taken effect, it is already in jeopardy....Taking this benefit away from seniors would be irresponsible and reckless at a time when it is becoming harder and harder for seniors to afford a healthy retirement.
With letters like this, the GOP is getting a taste of its own medicine. Throughout the health care debate, high-profile Republicans argued repeatedly that the PPACA was a bad idea because it included hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare. Since then, top Republicans like John Boehner have refused to give specifics about entitlement reform. This was an effective line of attack with many voters, but it also backed the party into a tight policy corner. The GOP's recent line on Medicare just isn't terribly compatible with serious health policy reform: If Medicare benefits must be protected at all costs, then it becomes very difficult to fix the part of the health care system most in need of a fix. And, as this letter demonstrates, defending Medicare when convenient makes the GOP vulnerable to similar Medicare-centric attacks whenever the party attempts to repeal or reform a health system change that includes additional Medicare benefits.