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Medicare and campaign ads, courtesy of Karl Rove

RoveThe Times' editorial board blasts the amount of money flowing into the campaign from anonymous donors,  calling not for more limits on campaign cash but for more disclosure. If the past is any judge, that's not a partisan position -- Republicans have traditionally been the champions of disclosure, although Democrats seem to be the louder advocates now. The torch passes back and forth, evidently in the opposite direction from the flow of big anonymous donations.

You would think Californians would be particularly receptive to the notion of donor disclosure, given how the state's laws have effectively exposed the special interests -- be they unions, out-of-state oil companies or wealthy insurance magnates -- behind ballot measures. But some readers of the editorial took issue with the example it cited, a "misleading" commercial that Crossroads GPS (a conservative group advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove, pictured above) has run against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Here's the excerpt from the editorial:

"California seniors are worried. Barbara Boxer voted to cut spending on Medicare  benefits by $500 billion, cuts so costly to hospitals and nursing homes that they could stop taking Medicare altogether. Boxer's cuts would sharply reduce benefits for some and could jeopardize access to care for millions of others, and millions of Americans won't be able to keep the plan or doctor they already have. Check the facts and take action. Call Boxer. Stop the Medicare cuts."

Two readers, "LanceE77" and "chardest," argued that the commercial spoke the truth. Wrote chardest:

The bill DOES include as savings the $HALF TRILLION in cuts to Medicare. This "savings" was needed to "reduce" the cost of the bill and keep it under, at that time, $800 bill[ion].

The reality is that the bill doesn't cut Medicare benefits a dime and doesn't "jeopardize access" for anybody, although it may very well force plenty of seniors to change the plans they're on. It also puts Medicare on sounder financial footing, postponing insolvency for about 12 years.

First off, the Congressional Budget Office calculates  that the law will reduce projected Medicare spending by $390 billion over 10 years, an amount that factors in $70 billion worth of benefit increases that critics usually ignore (such as closing the prescription drug "donut hole" and eliminating out-of-pocket costs for preventative services). No small amount, granted, but not half a trillion dollars.

Second, about half the net "savings" in the bill will come from slower increases  in the payments to hospitals, clinics and other providers of care (excluding doctors). Instead of increasing these payments to keep pace with the Consumer Price Index, the bill calls for the inflationary adjustment to be trimmed to reflect the average productivity increases made by U.S. businesses.

It's odd to hear Boxer's critics refer to a spending increase as a cut, given that they normally criticize that sort of logic. Anyway, the change affects only "fee for service" rates, which should help move the industry away from the fee-for-service business model (which gives providers an incentive to perform more procedures on the sick) toward models that reward them for keeping patients healthy.

Third, an estimated $135 billion in savings is projected to come from bringing subsidies for Medicare Advantage into line with those for the regular Medicare program. Medicare Advantage was created in the hope that private insurers could deliver more value at lower cost than the government. And it's true that Medicare Advantage plans have better features than standard Medicare -- typically, lower co-payments or coverage for more types of care. But it costs the government more than $1 to deliver $1 worth of subsidy through Medicare Advantage. That kind of inefficiency is hard to defend.

The changes in Medicare Advantage subsidies are likely to prompt insurers to reduce some of the extras they offer or stop offering those plans altogether. And that's going to affect millions of seniors who've signed up for Medicare Advantage, trading the convenience of standard Medicare for some extra features. But the law does not reduce the benefits that Medicare provides. Again, it just affects the add-ons from Medicare Advantage, which costs the taxpayers more than standard Medicare does -- contrary to lawmakers' hopes and expectations when they created the program.

This is complex stuff, which makes it difficult to convey to the public in a 30-second ad. But the Crossroads GPS commercial offers not a simplification of what Boxer voted for; it's a scary caricature.

-- Jon Healey

Credit: AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki



Comments () | Archives (15)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mitchell Young

Disclosure would be nice in theory, it is good to know exactly where election contributions come from. Unfortunately donors to the 'Yes' campaign on proposition were harassed, with at least one person forced to resign from his job. An unprecedented situation, certainly in recent elections, if ever. So we can thank the more militant elements of the 'No' on 8 side for doing serious damage to disclosure laws -- if not legally (though that may be the case) then in the court of public opinion.


Can anyone expect less from cuzzin Karl the Marxist in charge?

Keith Proctor

Mitchell, harassing people for their political views and contributions is not new. It's only because you have finally noticed it do you think it's new. And it's not just from a few No on 8 people. Your view is terribly limited.

Keith Proctor

"Among the varieties of American innocence that were lost on September 11, perhaps the most intriguing was the mass discovery of what it feels like to be hated. 'How can they hate us,' people asked, 'just because we're Americans, when they don't even know us?' Well, I thought, welcome to my world. People hate homosexuals all the time, across great distances, from places where they feel threatened by us even though most of us would never contemplate living there." - Michael Schwartz, The Gay & Lesbian Review

Tim Bowman

The Bush presidency is long over, yet you liberals are still fretting about Karl Rove like he is satan incarnate. When can we expect your piece on Barbara Boxer's latest commercial in which she quotes hysterical liberals spouting nonsense and lies, summing it all up with Carly being too extreme for California?

Jon Healey

@Tim Bowman -- That's a fair question, Tim, although the point of the editorial was the board's concern about anonymous donors spending huge amounts of money to sway races. I just took a look at Boxer's ad, and I agree it misstates Fiorina's positions on Social Security and abortion. But there's no question who paid for it -- Boxer's campaign committee, whose donors are subject to disclosure requirements.


"Karl Rove" and "deceitful" are synonyms. Why do you give this aptly-nicknamed "turd" space and attention?

pasadena jag

Boxer has to be the worst thing that has happened to America next to Pelosi and Obama.


Blaa Blaa Blaa. You know it, I know it,And everybody should know it by now that the whole purpose of this "overhaul" is to bring us ALL into single payer socialized Europian style health care. Think about it, think about it very hard, do you really want and need Government run health care? well do you? Government controlled health care, Doctors,Nurses,Medicines,Hospitals everthing under the Governments control. Im scared how about you?


And the congressional budget office tells the truth ? I guess the stimulus worked too ! I can't wait to see Boxer gone.


So I know most of you really hate Carl Rove because the movie stars and media talking heads told you to and by god if Alec Baldwin is'nt the smartist man on the planet I dont know who is, but perhaps your hatred for Carl is a bit misguided. Take a look at the facts. Democrats took the House and Senate Jan,3rd. 2007. the Dow closed that day at 12.621.77 The GDP was 3.5%. Unemployment was at 4.6% and the Bush Admin. set a record at 52 straight months of Job Creation Remember? And also on that day Jan.3rd.2007 Barney Frank took over the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd took over the Senate Banking Committee. So what happend 15 months later? Banking and Financial Services Meltdown. Do you think Maybe it was done on purpose to setup a straw man or "crisis" to knock down and gain control of all three branches of OUR Government? Hmm. So you dont have to old Carl a break, just Remember the facts of the past and be smart about OUR future.

Jon Healey

@Ziggy -- Wow. That's like arguing that Democrats planned the Great Depression to put FDR into office.


Carl Rove, the guy who brought us George Bush is being less than truthful?

I'm shocked, shocked.

So, what's with the people who defend this guy?


There is probably reason George W Bush calls him "Turd blossom." If that guy has that little respect for him, why does anyone?


For those of you who are sick of hearing Obama and the Dems propagate the fallacy that everything is "Bush's Fault", Educate yourselves:

Remember the day...
January 3rd, 2007 was the day the Democrats took over the Senate and the Congress:

At the time:

The DOW Jones closed at 12,621.77

The GDP for the previous quarter was 3.5%

The Unemployment rate was 4.6%

George Bush's Economic policies SET A RECORD of 52 STRAIGHT MONTHS of JOB CREATION!

Remember the day...
January 3rd, 2007 was the day that Barney Frank took over the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd took over the Senate Banking Committee.

The economic meltdown that happened 15 months later was in what part of the economy?

THANK YOU DEMOCRATS for taking us from 13,000 DOW, 3.5 GDP and 4.6% Unemployment... to this CRISIS by (among MANY other things) dumping 5-6 TRILLION Dollars of toxic loans on the economy from YOUR Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac FIASCOES!
(BTW: Bush asked Congress 17 TIMES to stop Fannie & Freddie - starting in 2001 because it was "Financially risky for the US economy"):

And who took the THIRD highest pay-off from Fannie Mae AND Freddie Mac????


And who fought against reform of Fannie and Freddie???

The HYPOCRITE in Chief Obama

So when the kool-aid crowd blame Bush...




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