There's a big -- brand new -- attack on Medicare that's just been added in the Senate to the Fast Track bill for the TPP. The bill would cut a whopping $700 million from Medicare, hurting seniors who need access to health care.This sure sounds bad, doesn't it? So I've spent some time trying to track down exactly what's going on. I'm going to try my best to relate what I've learned. But I'll warn you...it gets a bit wonkish. So bear with me.
Let me start by saying that its hard to count the ways that the paragraph I quoted above is wrong. Let's go through them in order:
- This is not "brand new." One article I found discussed a press conference at which Rep. Nancy Pelosi talked about it on May 1st. Another article I found about it was dated April 21st.
The whopper comes next. Saying that this cut to Medicare was added to the Fast Track Bill is a lie.The issue having to do with Medicare is part of anotherbill reauthorizing Trade Adjustment Assistance. That is a program that provides financial assistance and training to workers who are displaced as a result of trade imports. TAA has been around since 1974 and the benefits are set to expire in September unless it is re-authorized. This is one of three bills that Democrats insisted be considered along with the fast-track bill (the others having to do with currency manipulation and trade with Africa). But it is not part of fast track and it is needed regardless of whether TPP passes or not.
- Republicans being, well...Republicans, have insisted on "offsets" for funding TAA. Here's where things get wonky. Perhaps you remember sequestration (automatic budget cuts that were triggered by the failure to reach a "grand bargain" in 2011). Certain programs were protected from these cuts - one of them being Medicare. But what sequestration did allow was cuts to Medicare providers, which were capped at 2%. It turns out that one of the budget gimmicks Congress pulled was to stack those cuts in 2024 in the first half of the year. The cap on cuts during the first 6 months was raised to 4% and then went down to 0% for the last six months. Part of the offset Republicans found for TAA was to allow cuts to Medicare providers the last 6 months of 2024 and cap them at 0.25%. There are a total of 5 budget gimmicks - this being one of them - that they came up with for TAA. If you are a true wonk addict, you can see all of them here.
By the way, Democracy For America isn't the only one peddling this nonsense. Here's the petition page at CREDO Action on the same thing. At least they do a better job of explaining it all, but here's the sentence attached to their petition:
Don’t let Republicans use the debate over Fast Tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership to force cuts to Medicare.Technically that's not a lie. But it is certainly designed to mis-inform.
The truth is that this is the kind of thing people do when they're desperate (and want folks to give them their email addresses so they can solicit them for donations). But it is beneath anyone who wants to claim even an ounce of integrity.
UPDATE: Upon doing some further research, I had to make some major updates to this post. Apparently reauthorization of TAA was initially a separate bill but it appears to have been folded into the TPA (so-called "fast track") bill via negotiations between Sen. Hatch, Sen. Wyden, and Rep. Ryan. I am truly sorry for that error. But what it means is that Democrats who vote against TPA are also voting against the reauthorization of TAA.