There Tim Griffin goes again | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

There Tim Griffin goes again

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 11:20 AM

U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin apparently feels a little heat from his vote to end Medicare and cut millionaires' taxes.

He's gone to rewriting history (aka lying) on his Twitter feed.

Griffin distributed this Twitter message this morning:

Did you know that the House Budget Medicare reform was first recommended by Bill Clinton's bipartisan Medicare Commission in 1999?

Read on for a full summary of what actually happened. Griffin's effort to wrap his Medicare-wrecking vote in Bill Clinton armor is wholly dishonest. The passage below is from the Policy Almanac.

The most significant legislation affecting Medicare that has been enacted in recent years was the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which President Clinton signed into law on August 5 of that year. The legislation's primary goal was to balance the federal budget by 2002, which at the time was still operating in a deficit. It included language trimming growth in Medicare spending by $116.4 billion over five years, most of which was due to reductions in payments to health care providers (hospitals and doctors). The legislation also increased Medicare Part B premiums, established new Medicare+Choice managed care plans, and created a bipartisan commission to study Medicare's long-term finances and report back to Congress.

The commission, also known as the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, was chaired by Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) and Representative William Thomas (R-CA), now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In March of 1999 the commission disbanded, unable to achieve sufficient unity to forward an official recommendation to Congress. The commission did not go out without controversy, however. A plan backed by Sen. Breaux fell one vote short of the required majority needed to endorse an official set of recommendations. Among other provisions, the Breaux plan would have transformed Medicare into a premium support system, where instead of Medicare directly covering beneficiaries or underwriting their participation in HMOs, beneficiaries would be given a fixed amount of money to purchase private health insurance. Breaux's plan would also have raised the age of eligibility from 65 to 67, as has already been done with Social Security, and provided prescription drug coverage for low-income individuals with incomes of up to $10,568 and couples with incomes of up to $13,334. Partly because the plan ignored his call to transfer Medicare some of the budget surplus expected over the next ten years, however, Clinton refused to urge his own nominees on the commission to support the Breaux plan.

Instead, Clinton released his own set of recommendation on June 29, 1999. The central feature in Clinton's plan was a transfer of $794 billion in surplus general tax revenues to the Medicare program from 2000 through 2014, extending the program's insolvency date. Clinton's plan would have also created a new prescription drug benefit and eliminated copayments and deductibles for preventive care.

Following this impasse, and facing increased political pressure from health care providers, Congress began to reverse some of the spending cuts in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. In late 1999, Congress enacted legislation restoring $35 billion in Medicare and Medicaid funding to hospitals, nursing homes and health plans over five years. In 2000 Congress restored another $16 billion in Medicare funding to various providers. Significant structural reforms, however, were put off until the coming session of Congress.

In his campaign for the presidency, George W. Bush criticized the Clinton-Gore administration for failing to lead on Medicare and other issues. Bush is expected to appoint a new bi-partisan commission to review Medicare's long term finances and other possible changes, such as the inclusion of a new prescription drug benefit. After the commission issues its recommendations, Bush may submit a proposal to Congress in late 2001 or early 2002.

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