Just one year before Congress passed President Barack Obama’s controversial healthcare law, the president denounced what would become a central component of the law as “the wrong approach.”
Obamacare, which passed in 2010, sought to reduce Medicare spending by strictly capping the program’s growth at GDP plus 1 percent. In his most recent budget proposal, Obama went even further, calling for Medicare growth capped at GDP plus 0.5 percent.
However, the president told the Washington Post in 2009 that this approach to Medicare reform was “wrong” and “doesn’t solve the underlying problem.”
Imposing strict caps on Medicare growth would mean “people being thrown off the rolls or cutting benefits,” Obama warned in 2009. In effect, Medicare recipients would “get less health care,” he said.
Here is Obama’s full quote:
What I think is probably the wrong approach is to think, well, the way to solve this is Medicare is spending X, and we're just going to cap it at Y, and whatever that means in terms of people being thrown off the rolls or cutting benefits, you know, then so be it. Because that doesn't solve the underlying problem which is health care costs themselves are still escalating at a 6 or 7 or 8 percent rate. All we're doing is we're just saying to people, you know what, you're going to get less health care.
This “wrong approach,” however, was ultimately incorporated into the president’s plan. Under the law, if Medicare growth exceeds the predetermined caps, a 15-member board of political appointees has sweeping powers to make additional spending cuts. Congress, meanwhile, has little power to stop those cuts from taking effect.
Obama has relentlessly attacked Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for their proposals to restore solvency to Medicare through increased competition among private insurance providers, rather than government-enforced price controls.
Medicare’s chief actuary Richard Foster, however, has expressed greater confidence in the Republican approach, in terms of the likelihood that it will rein in Medicare costs.
Foster has also estimated that the plan to cut roughly $310 billion in Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and other health care facilities would result in about one-fourth of those facilities becoming unprofitable by 2030, and would likely be forced to cut benefits or restrict access to care, just as Obama warned in 2009 could happen.
The president’s health care law has, by his own standard, failed to “solve the underlying problem” of rapidly increasing health care costs. Despite promising that his law would reduce premiums by $2,500, healthcare premiums have increased by more than $3,000 since Obama was elected.