Democratic Candidates Have To Come Out Against What Biden Is Doing To Medicare Or Catch His Cooties
I was in the middle of researching a post about Democratic Party hopes of winning an open red Senate seat in Ohio a state that voted for Trump over Hillary, 51.3% to 43.2% and then Trump over Biden, 53.3% to 45.2%. The party nominated a middle of the road, wishy-washy congressman, Tim Ryan who inspires absolutely no one. The Republican primary was a rip-roaring affair and 1,059,113 people voted. The Democratic establishment did everything it could to pretend there was no primary; just 510,362 people voted. Every prognosticator has predicted JD Ryan will beat Ryan and the Democratic Establishment is wary about spending any money to help Ryan-- in what was not that long ago considered a swing state. Obama won Ohio both times he ran so it isn't Indiana or Kentucky. But both Schumer's SuperPAC and Priorities USA, the biggest Democratic SuperPAC, ignored Ohio when they started spending and reserving airtime.
Ryan's a Biden kind of candidate which isn't going to go over at all in Ohio. So half the time he pretends to be like Sherrod Brown, a progressive. In a new TV ad released Friday Ryan said he "agreed with Trump on trade." Agreeing with Sherrod Brown on trade would have been a better approach but that isn't going to be how Ryan's campaign unfolds. They see Ohio as a center-right state and will run him as a center-right candidate and hope that the left just sticks with him while Vance scares the center by enchanting the fringe right. That never works... as Ryan will learn in November.
Anyway, I was just getting going on the Tim Ryan research when a friend sent me this Jacobin piece by Matthew Cunningham-Cook that helps explain why voters hate Democratic centrists: Biden Has Enacted the Largest-Ever Medicare Premium Hikes. See, when he really, really wants something, he has no qualms about bypassing Congress. Cunningham-Cook wrote that last week the administration "reaffirmed its decision to enact the highest Medicare premium hikes in history right before this year’s midterm elections. At the same time, President Joe Biden is endorsing a plan to funnel significantly more Medicare money to insurance companies and further privatize the government insurance program for older Americans and those with disabilities. In effect, the higher premium increases will subsidize the larger payments to-- and profits for-- private insurance corporations. This comes after Biden raked in roughly $47 million from health care industry executives during his 2020 campaign. The Biden administration announced on May 27 that due to 'legal and operational hurdles,' Medicare recipients won’t see their premiums lowered this year, even though that rate was originally hiked last November in large part due to the projected costs of paying for a controversial Alzheimer’s drug that Medicare now says it generally will not cover. The administration’s announcement comes as Biden officials move forward with a jolting 8.5 percent hike in payments made to private insurers operating Medicare Advantage plans next year.
The juxtaposition between dramatically increasing payments to private insurance plans that provide less care for higher costs on the one hand and keeping seniors’ premiums artificially inflated on the other underscores the Biden administration’s conflicting commitments when it comes to Medicare. On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden pledged as president to “. . . continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people with disabilities through Medicare.”
But since taking office, Biden has expanded Medicare privatization by launching the involuntary ACO REACH program and through continuing to promote ever-increasing Medicare Advantage enrollment, and he has also raised premiums for Medicare recipients. The result, advocates say, is a situation in which Medicare’s sturdiness as an American institution is being steadily chipped away by well-connected corporate interests.
“[The] privatization effort is reaching a frantic state, and Medicare Advantage is going to fail,” said Bill Kadereit, president of the American Retirees Education Foundation, due to the fact that the plans must pay profits to investors, unlike traditional Medicare plans. “The industry is hoping to cover up that failure with taxpayer subsidies that none of the taxpayers understand.”
...[W]ho benefits from the explosive rate increase? The major private insurance companies that helped bankroll Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.
“Medicare Advantage insurers such as United Healthcare, Anthem, and CVS/Aetna are celebrating record profits in the tens of billions of dollars,” said Dr Susan Rogers, president of Physicians for a National Healthcare Program. “Their business plan is simple: inflate their Medicare payments by making seniors look sicker than they are and then pocket more of those Medicare dollars by ruthlessly denying seniors’ care.”
As for his very modest campaign promise to lower the Medicare age eligibility to 60, that doesn't even ever get mentioned any longer. Right down the memory hole with raising the minimum wage and lowing the cost of prescription drugs. Voters are going to try teaching that old dog a lesson he'll never get over. But what does he care? It's the rest of us who will suffer.
Shervin Aazami in the San Fernando Valley and the West Side of L.A. is likely to win a place in the general election Tuesday, so he's going to be fighting the good fight against do-nothing corporate Democrat Brad Sherman right through the summer and fall. Today he told me that "The Democratic establishment’s penchant for self-sabotage seems to know no bounds. It’s sickening to think that Biden is throwing gasoline on a Trump-era plan to privatize Medicare during an ongoing pandemic and as millions of seniors are facing growing financial instability. Privatization will mean higher costs for lower quality care when a growing majority of Americans support single-payer Medicare for All. Just maddening."
Jason Call is also going to make it through the Washington jungle primary and into the general election where he's up against another corporate Democrat, New Dem Rick Larsen. "It is an absolute mystery," he told me this evening, "why the Biden administration would take these steps to further burden seniors, many of whom are struggling with fixed incomes and as has been known for decades are being forced to choose between healthcare and food. With the projections of Democratic losses in the midterms and a resurgence of the Trump right wing looming for 2024, there is nothing about this that makes any political sense, aside from the sheer cruelty of giving private, for-profit entities yet more control and profiteering over a system that private insurance has already failed. There has been speculation over the tens of millions of dollars that the for-profit health industry contributed to the Biden campaign in 2020, amassing further evidence that corporate money unduly influences elected officials to the detriment of the general public. We must get corporate money out of the political system and we must pass Medicare For All."
Melanie D'Arrigo, the frontrunner for the open Long Island 3rd district seat-- the only progressive in a race that pits her against 3 conservative stooges-- is campaigning on Medicare for All. "One of the most astounding governmental decisions of our time," she told me this evening, "was the failure to enact universal healthcare during a global pandemic where we lost over 1 million Americans. History will not view us kindly. Instead of making the easy decision to put people over corporate profits, treat healthcare as a human right and invest in our communities, Congress chose to invest in their campaign donors leaving millions of Americans uninsured and under-insured. Medicare was created to protect older Americans aging out of employer based healthcare, providing a continuum of healthcare services and protection from financial ruin. Later it was expanded to include people under the age of 65 who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. In short, it was created to take care of two of our most vulnerable populations. The creation of this important program is something that every American should be proud of. Ensuring that our senior citizens and disabled communities are taken care of should be a core value of our nation. Instead, the current administration has refused to lower inflated Medicare premiums and moved toward Medicare privatization via Medicare Advantage plans. A recent NY Times study proved that Medicare Advantage does what typical private insurance companies do--charge more and provide less care. In this case, denying senior citizens over 85,000 pre authorization requests for medical care and refusing to pay 1.5 million in medical claims. A strong social safety net is the bedrock of democracy. In a time where our rights are being eroded across the board, now is the time to double down on prioritizing the needs of our people. We should join the rest of the industrialized world and move toward high quality healthcare for all. It is shocking that regression has been chosen over progress. Every person deserves high quality healthcare. That is why I will fight like hell when I get to Congress to pass Medicare for All and it's why every person in this country should fight for universal healthcare like their life depends on it, because one day it just might."
If these are the kinds of people you want to see in Congress, instead of more Republican-lite "Democrats," please consider contributing what you can to both Aazami, D'Arrigo and Call here, or by clicking on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer above.