Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday aggressively criticized the Medicare cuts under Obamacare — cuts which are also included in the House GOP budget that was unveiled Tuesday. In echoing the familiar Republican attack line on the President, Cruz did not reference the budget proposal from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that adopts the same cuts.
“Obamacare took $716 billion from Medicare, a large portion of which came from the Medicare Advantage program which serves a great many seniors, and especially poor seniors,” Cruz said on the Senate floor. “According to the Office of the Actuary at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Medicare advantage cuts in Obamacare will reduce enrollment from 14.8 million to 7.4 million by 2017. It will cut it in half. Seven million people will lose their coverage under Medicare Advantage.” (The actuary also found that those who lose coverage under Medicare Advantage, an optional program under which seniors can receive coverage through a private insurer, would remain covered under traditional Medicare.)
“I would remind you the president said if you like your health insurance, you can keep it,” Cruz said. “Yet seven million seniors are losing Medicare Advantage.”
His remarks come one day after the budget blueprint unveiled by Ryan sustains those cuts, which reduce reimbursements for private insurers under Medicare Advantage and providers such as hospitals and nursing homes. Ryan told reporters he wants to use them for deficit reduction as opposed to funding the Affordable Care Act.
The remarks by the freshman senator from Texas came as he was pushing his amendment to defund Obamacare, seeking to amend legislation aimed at funding the government after March 27 through the end of September. He admitted his measure wasn’t likely to pass.
Citing statistics from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, he said the Medicare cuts would “in particular hurt seniors” in Texas, California, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alaska, New York, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.
“And the harm to Medicare Advantage in particular is visited upon minorities,” Cruz said. “And so Obamacare targets a program that is helping seniors, in particular is helping those seniors who are most vulnerable.”
Ryan himself has been back and forth on the merits of the Medicare cuts, generally opposing them while campaigning, in 2010 and 2012, but assuming the same level of savings in his three budget proposals in 2011, 2012 and his new blueprint released this week.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.