Friday, February 10, 2023

Sunset


This is how politicians should be interviewed- not only Republicans but also Democrats, and not only by CNN's Kaitlan Collins. But in this case it was she and in the wake of President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday, Scott was the a prime, and deserving, target.

In this interview, Florida senator Scott insists that President Biden has cut Medicare, though he is careful not to say “cut Medicare benefits.”In a fact check on Thursday, CNN noted that deputy director of the Medicare policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Mark

Cubanski explained that the Inflation Reduction Act’s projected prescription drug savings of $237 billion will largely come from three particular provisions. None of these provisions cuts Medicare benefits.

One provision allows the federal government, starting in 2026, to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the prices of certain high-cost drugs for Medicare. Another requires the drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if the price of certain drugs rises faster than inflation. A third provision delays, until 2032, the implementation of a Trump administration rule that had never taken effect and already been postponed until 2027. That rule, which would have effectively banned rebates from drug companies to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, had been expected not only to increase Medicare spending but to force Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher premiums.

So, again, not even the cost-saving parts of the law are Medicare cuts. And then there are the additional provisions Cubanski mentioned above, which will add expenditures to the government but save seniors money – such as the new $35-per-month cap on out-of-pocket spending on insulin and a new $2,000-per-year cap, starting in 2025, on out-of-pocket prescription drug spending in Medicare Part D.

Scott insists that he hasn't endorsed benefit cuts. At 6:10 of the video with Collins, he states

I've been clear. I will not reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits. Alright? I've been clear. And I was in my plan. Congress needs to fix Med- make sure that Medicare and Social Security survive.



It is an article of faith- or at least, it seems to be- of Republicans that Medicare and Social Security will die on the vine (i.e., not survive) unless benefits are slashed. There is a little bit of logic there. Scott, as with some of his GOP colleagues, says he will never vote to raise taxes. If Congress does not increase the maximum annual wage- now $160,200- that's subject to Social Security tax, the trust fund eventually, in a matter of decades, will run out.

The cap, as Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democrats have long advocated, could be increased or (as it should be) eliminated altogether. That's a bridge to decency Republicans will not cross.

Senator Scott knows that cutting, or decreasing, benefits won't fly politically. Therefore, he wants to sunset "entitlements" (earned benefits) which- in the short term- does not necessarily cut benefits.  A lot of voters don't know what sunsetting is (and it's not an actual word). Elderly individuals, the Florida senator believes, may believe it wouldn't happen for awhile, and Republicans have been trying for years to condition young people to accept as inevitable that Social Security, if not Medicare also, won't last forever. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, if he's not lying through his teeth, is not keen on Scott's plan. That's for now, though. Republicans in the House of Representatives, which the GOP controls, are unpredictable, and ghastly.  So it becomes essential for President Biden, as he did in his State of the Union address, to tell the public that some Republicans want to sunset the program and tie that to a decrease in benefits. And it can only help if journalists, such as Kaitlan Collins did one fine Thursday morning, persist in asking the uncomfortable questions.



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