Rosendale Wants to Cut Medicare, Doesn’t Understand Health Reform

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Remember a few weeks ago when the Independent Record said that it would continue to print letters to the editor arguing scientific nonsense about global warming because, despite the facts, people still disagreed with the conclusion that human activity causes global warming? Today, they applied that standard of fact-free opinion pieces by letting Congressional candidate Matt Rosendale publish editorial nonsense about health care.

The big reveal of the piece is that Rosendale wants to cut Medicare benefits for elderly Montanans. He claims that “these programs (Medicare and Medicaid) will bankrupt our health care system, themselves and our country in that order if we do nothing.”

Actually, the worst thing we could do to Medicare would be to end the Affordable Care Act, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes:

The trustees’ finding that health reform has improved Medicare’s financial status is consistent with the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that health reform will reduce federal budget deficits — modesty in its first ten years, but substantially in the following decade.[3]   Medicare is a part of the federal budget.

He’s also wrong that Medicare is on the verge of bankruptcy, as the CBPP, Columbia Journalism Review, Fact Check.org, and just about everyone who isn’t on the Koch Brothers payroll know. Calling for “reform” of Medicare because of hyperbolic, untrue fears about the program’s bankruptcy will lead to risky privatization schemes, reduced benefits, and inferior care for America’s elderly.

Rosendale also  asserts that (in his best Dr. Evil voice) 100 million Americans could lose their health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. Rosendale’s assertion is a GOP talking point totally disconnected from reality, as its definition of what it means to “lose coverage” simply means that your coverage changes in some way. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt explains:

“Under this definition, ” Levitt replied, “the idea of keeping your plan ceases to be meaningful.” He went on to say that “virtually every health plan changed in some way every year — tweaking benefits, cost-sharing, drug formularies, provider networks, etc.”

Next, Rosendale asserts that allowing insurers to sell across state lines will almost magically drive down costs. It won’t, and any savings generated will be because a few states will so dramatically lower the regulation of insurance plans sold there that consumers will end up with terrible plans, no legal recourse when they’re mistreated, and no more insurance for the uninsured.

And the CBO found that it would be even worse when they studied this proposal a few years ago:

The legislation “would reduce the price of individual health insurance coverage for people expected to have relatively low health care costs, while increasing the price of coverage for those expected to have relatively high health care costs,” CBO said. “Therefore, CBO expects that there would be an increase in the number of relatively healthy individuals, and a decrease in the number of individuals expected to have relatively high cost, who buy individual coverage.”

And it ignores a fundamental reason that insurance isn’t sold across state lines: each state gets to regulate the insurance sold there. Does Rosendale  really want to take Montana’s ability to regulate its insurance away from the state? That doesn’t sound terribly conservative to me—and would deny Montana, a state with small population, any real say in insurance plans sold here.

Rosendale also ends with the tired Republican argument that tort reform will somehow solve the exploding cost of medical care in the United States. When he—and others—make that argument, they leave out that the reform they propose will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to sue doctors and hospitals who make mistakes in their coverage.

And it won’t make a difference. The last, best, most comprehensive study of the impact of tort reform said that malpractice and litigation amount to a “rounding error” in the total costs of medical care in the U.S.:

According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, the last year for which data are available. We have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. That’s a rounding error. Liability isn’t even the tail on the cost dog. It’s the hair on the end of the tail.

Matt Rosendale doesn’t have any solutions for medical care in the United States. He’s offering nothing more than decade-old talking points whose policy implementation would do nothing to cut costs, decrease the quality of care available to Americans, and undermine the safety net that Medicare has provided elderly Americans for generations.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

14 Comments

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  • If there is a problem with a product Tort reform it is one of the only forms of redress left Average folks. and the GOP want to take that away from Americans.

    If you work in a job and the fumes of producing a product make you sick, and the company never told you about the fumes, or gave you safety gear to protect you… they are responsible to make you well.

    The same goes for doctors, if they promise you an outcome, and they didn’t go to the trouble to make sure as a patient you could take the Operation or Medicine successfully and be healed, they should be sued for the costs or complications afterward. Your selling a service, and if your word as a doctor or Hospital isn’t good… your outcome could be a pine box.

    There is a group of people out there however small, that sells snake oil. Tort reform makes it easier to keep the bad guys out of business and the good ones in business, Its just that.

    Republicans say your at risk in everything you do, even though the guy selling the product or doctor told you a lie. I think there is a consequence for selling a lie.

    Lets face it they jumped all over Obama for a bad website, they howled at the injustice of junk insurance policies being dropped( even though it was the insurance companies dumping people not Obama)….. Doesn’t anyone else think it Hypocritical of them to say, “Buyer beware” for everything when their donation buddies fick people, or need an excuse for letting a person die, or be maimed by a product????

  • The tort system gives average people a way to influence powerful businesses and institutions and
    change their dangerous practices and policies.
    • For years, people reported instances of clergy abuse to church officials. However, it was not until
    lawsuits were filed that church hierarchies began to institute procedures to punish offenders and
    protect parishioners.i
    • As a result of lawsuits brought by patients’ families, nursing home policies and procedures have been
    changed to better protect elderly patients.ii
    • After individuals successfully sued companies, many re-designed their products, improved warnings,
    and in some cases, withdrew dangerous products from the marketplace.iii
    The tort system deters companies from putting profits ahead of safety.
    • The prospect of paying damages provides the financial incentive for companies to ensure safety and
    refrain from harmful conduct, thereby preventing injuries in the first place.
    • Corporate Risk Managers have reported that the threat of tort liability helps them motivate companies
    to improve product safety.iv
    • Liability concerns have helped spur the manufacture of safer consumer products, such as flame
    retardant pajamas and cars with rear-seat shoulder belts and improved fuel tank design.v
    The tort system helps limit the government’s role.
    • Without the tort system to police and deter business misconduct, government probably would have to
    assume a greater role in protecting the public from negligent and unscrupulous business conduct.
    • Government agencies already cannot or do not fully enforce regulations designed to protect the
    public. For example, OSHA rarely seeks charges for workplace deaths based on willful violations of
    workplace safety rules.vi The Consumer Product Safety Commission “often withholds for months or
    even years information about suspected unsafe products…. It has never publicized the safety
    violations related to more than 11,000 ‘corrective actions’ from 1990-2004, sometimes allowing
    violators to sell out substandard merchandise to unsuspecting American consumers.”vii The FDA’s
    failure to address concerns about Vioxx is just the latest example of an agency allowing dangerous
    products to enter and remain in the marketplace.viii In other cases, administrative agencies failed to
    discover that manufacturers had concealed critical information about the potential harm caused by
    asbestos, PCBs, the Dalkon Shield IUD, the anti-cholesterol drug MER/29, or heart catheters.ix
    • A move from the tort system to reliance on government agencies to protect consumers and deter
    corporate misconduct would likely require: more bureaucracy to enforce the regulations, higher taxes
    or a shift of money from other sources to pay for increased governmental enforcement, more
    paperwork from businesses, and greater governmental interference in business practices. Even these
    changes would not guarantee a more effective regulatory system or equal or better protections for
    consumers than those that exist under of the tort system.

    http://centerjd.org/cjrg/Tort.pdf

  • The same screed was published in today’s InterLake. Not only does he not understand the issue, nor care about it, he does not want to understand it or care about it. He just wants sick people to die quickly without complaining so that their misfortune will not cost the right kind of people money.

      • Money quote. Figures included.

        “As the Examiner’s Richard Pollock wrote, “An estimated 3.5 million poor and ill homebound senior citizens will wake up on New Year’s Day to discover ObamaCare has slashed funding for their home health care program.” He’s right: on January 1st, the Obama Administration will sharply cut Medicare funding for home healthcare services.
        Totaling a whopping 14 percent between 2014 and 2017, this cut is the maximum allowable under the ObamaCare law. The Administration had the discretion to cut less, or even to make no cuts at all. But they decided to impose the deepest cut made possible by the Affordable Care Act (shouldn’t we be calling this the “Horrible Care Act”?) legislation. And in doing so, they will shift billions of dollars from Medicare to ObamaCare.”

        Hey James, you’re a investigative journalist. How ’bout some reports on the amount of Montanans who have lost or will loose their health plans over this fiasco?

  • isn’t it annoying that these crap pieces sail through editorial boards without a modicum of fact checking or even point-counterpoint? There are filters in place that prevent progressive views from being aired, the polite and timid Ellen Goodman line (this far, no further). When it comes to right-wing tripe like this, there are no filters.

      • The best place to go for American news, Swede, is the foreign press, where most of the filters are absent. That’s why I read RT. I laugh when people who read the Washington Post or NY Times or even HuffPo, American propaganda outlets, refer to RT as “Russian propaganda.”

        But then I imagine that’s why you both watch Fox and listen to Rush – to get both sides.

  • Oh yeah, we should listen to the conservative and highly outrageous Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and Fox news Swede? Three of the worst publications on earth for getting real news from?

      • think of reading news, like walking across a pasture Swede. If you watch were your going you don’t step in piles of shit.

        Think of those publications as piles of stinky crap. You realize you just stepped in three of them to tell your story?

        Whos gonna stand close enough to hear you tell them?

  • Seems most Republicans in the state don’t want big government controlling things, they want big corporations to. De-regulation of energy didn’t do to well and now we’re turning down federal money we could use at the state level and instead forcing people to go to an unregulated marketplace.

    Yeah, we’ve seen how great the marketplace is at treating regular people, especially after those in the legislature gut the laws and stuff them with so many loopholes and jargon that they and their boardroom cronies are the only ones really profiting. Hey, term-limited out? No problem, lined my pockets when I was there (or at least those lobbyists that bought me dinner so many times I thought they were my friends).

    Folks, Obamacare is law, Boehner says so, move on. Or is there nothing to move on to? Is this all you’ve got? Really, you’re going to talk about health care (something most people want by the way) all the way to November?

    Wow, it’ll be easier to get elected than I thought.

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