Before the election, Rep. Kevin McCarthy said that electing Mitt Romney would mean that Republicans have a mandate to overhaul Medicare: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy: Election is ‘Mandate’ to Overhaul Medicare:
House Republican Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) says electing Mitt Romney this fall means Republicans have a ‘mandate’ to overhaul Medicare. As McCarthy put it, “If there’s a mandate going through this election, it’s to save Medicare.” As I put it: When Republicans say “save Medicare” they mean end Medicare as we know it. They would keep a government program called Medicare but it would not be the Medicare that has existed for almost half a century. The Republican plan for Medicare is to turn it into a program designed to shortchange seniors while increasing profits for private insurance companies.
We have a single payer health care insurance program that works very well for senior citizens. We don’t need to hand Medicare over to private insurance. Republicans can continue to blame Democrats for doing nothing to “save Medicare” but Republicans are the “kill Medicare” party and they have been for decades.
If what he said on this Sunday's Meet the Press is any indication, McCarthy hasn't seemed to figure out that they lost. And we've already explained here why this trial balloon put out there by the administration, where it seems they've forgotten who won as well, is a really bad idea that needs to be pushed back against forcefully. As everyone explained, even partially privatizing Medicare is not going to "save" the program. It just makes the cost of health care coverage more expensive for seniors.
I was glad to see Sen. Dick Durbin say raising the age is off the table during this interview, but I wasn't thrilled about him offering up means testing. Digby has more on that here: Hot Air Trial Ballooning:
I have a sneaking feeling that Durbin is throwing up a smokescreen there (or he's been smoking some of that special Alan Simpson sensimilla.) He must know that the argument is that Obamacare will pick up the slack if they decide to raise the Medicare age. If he doesn't then he needs to find another line of work.
Even Mitt Romney's health care advisor, Avik Roy from the Manhattan Institute, knows that. Here's what he said on Up with Chris Hayes this morning (with Steve Kornacki subbing for Chris)
"I have to respond to this interesting hyperbole about Medicare death sentence. If you raise the retirement age for Medicare, we have the Affordable Care Act as the backstop. Everybody under 400% poverty level is still covered with the affordable care act in place. So what we are really talking about is means testing Medicare by raising the retirement age. People who are upper income, above 400% of the poverty level won't be subsidized if they're younger retirees. It's where entitlement reform should go, to expand it into the retiree population."
(Kornacki pointed out that ACA is being challenged so it's not exactly a backstop at this point, but he let the topic drop in favor of more masturbation over tax rates.)
It sounds as if Roy and Jonathan Chait may have found the bipartisan sweet spot for Obamacare. Privatize Medicare! Now that really is a Grand Bargain.
Before everyone gets into another tizzy about how shrill and unreasonable I'm being for taking this rumor seriously, let's have a little discussion of what a "trial balloon" is. It is, simply, a rumor that's purposefully spread during a negotiation in order to gauge the reaction. Therefore, it is important to react, not act all glib and self-assured that it could never happen. They want to know if you think this is a good idea, so if you don't you should say so. And you should say it in a shrill enough fashion that they know it's a very big deal, if you think it's a very big deal.
Transcript below the fold.