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The Overlooked Trumpcare Threat: A Medicare Time Bomb

Trump’s broken promises on Medicaid and Social Security are plain to see. But the GOP health care bill also sets up the destruction of Medicare.

Nancy J. AltmanLinda Benesch

Just over two years ago, Donald Trump gave a speech announcing his run for the presidency. In that speech, he promised that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. That promise became a centerpiece of his campaign. It was a key way for Trump to differentiate himself, as a matter of policy, from his Republican primary opponents – a distinction he happily and frequently pointed out. In the general election, the promise helped him appeal to voters who don’t traditionally support the GOP.

But six months into his presidency, Trump has already betrayed those voters by breaking his promise. Indeed, rather than protecting those programs, he has already, in his short tenure, gone after all three!

When it comes to Social Security and Medicaid, that betrayal is highly visible and clear: His budget slashes billions from Social Security and Medicaid. Trump also champions the Republican health care repeal bill (also known as Trumpcare), which includes yet more massive cuts to Medicaid.

Indeed, Trumpcare is bait-and-switch: It claims to repeal and replace Obamacare, which it modifies, but doesn’t completely undo. What it does do, without broadcasting the fact, is repeal and replace Medicaid.

Trumpcare repeals Medicaid as we know it. It replaces it, transforming it from a guarantee to individuals into an inadequate lump of money to states. When the Medicaid changes are completely phased in, the clock will be turned back to before the enactment of Medicaid in 1965, when millions of seniors, people with disabilities and others were unable to afford life-saving health care, home health care, and nursing home care.

The destruction of Medicaid and the cutback to Social Security have gotten media attention. The broken promise on Medicare is in danger of slipping by beneath the radar, though.

Only days after the election, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he saw an opportunity to realize his decades-long dream of destroying Medicare. He said that he planned to enact legislation as soon as possible that would end Medicare’s guaranteed benefit and replace it with voucher coupons.

Ryan justified this horrible plan — destined to leave the nation’s seniors without medical care after a lifetime of work — by claiming “because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Affordable Care Act improved Medicare’s long-term finances, by requiring the wealthiest Americans to pay somewhat more. Trumpcare repeals that increased funding.

Ryan, Trump and their fellow Republicans are like the proverbial murderer who kills his parents and pleads for leniency because he is an orphan. In this case, they are raiding Medicare of necessary revenue, only down the road to argue that they must cut Medicare because it has insufficient funding! Indeed, Trumpcare accomplishes two goals: It gives a giant tax break to the wealthy at the expense of Medicare and it sets up the destruction of Medicare by raiding it. It is completely predictable that, if Trumpcare becomes law, Republicans will, as a next step, go after Medicare, claiming its funding shortfall as the supposed reason.

Trump ran on a promise to protect Medicare and Medicaid. But he now champions a bill that would destroy Medicaid and tees up the destruction of Medicare. This terrible bill is a betrayal of the American people, and it can still be stopped. To become law, the bill must first pass the Senate and then be voted on a second time in the House. I urge everyone who cares about the future of Medicare, Medicaid, and all health care in this country to take the following steps:

  1. If you have a Republican Senator or Representative, protest outside their state or district offices, and at any events they hold. If they are marching in a parade or participating in a ribbon cutting, it’s the perfect opportunity to demand that they keep their hands off the American people’s Medicare and Medicaid.

  2. Call your Senators at 202-224-3121. Tell them why cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would be a disaster for your family.

  3. Share this blog post, and all other information about how terrible Trumpcare is, with your friends and family. The media, especially TV news, likes to focus on “process” (e.g. how will this Senator vote?) at the expense of covering what’s actually in the bill. We need to make sure that everyone hears the truth about what Trump and the GOP are trying to impose on America.

It is not a stretch to say that the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid required the landslide victory of President Lyndon Johnson, one of the nation’s truly masterful legislators. We cannot let them be repealed. It is, bluntly, a matter of life and death.


Nancy Altman

Nancy J. Altman

Nancy J. Altman is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. She has a 40-year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. Her latest book is "The Truth About Social Security: The Founders' Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings" (2018). She is also the author of "The Battle for Social Security" (2005).

Linda Benesch

Linda Benesch

Linda Benesch is the Communications Director at Social Security Works, a national organization fighting to address our nation's retirement income crisis by protecting and expanding Social Security.

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