As I wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week, Republicans can win the Medicare debate if they have courage to make the case that reforms are necessary to keep Medicare from going broke in 2024.
President Obama provided the opening for Republicans to win this debate when he reduced future Medicare spending by $716 billion to pay for ObamaCare.
The Romney-Ryan ticket would repeal ObamaCare and thereby restore the $716 billion to stabilize Medicare’s finances. Mitt Romney has also offered a reform package to protect all the promises made to today’s seniors, while making Medicare sustainable for future generations.
Of course, Mr. Obama and his team are attacking Romney-Ryan for offering these reforms. What’s more interesting is that the president is obligated by law to offer his proposals to save Medicare, but has shirked this statutory responsibility four years.
Mr. Obama is required by law to respond to the “Medicare trigger,” a forecast from the Medicare Trustees that general revenues will be required for 45% or more of the program's outlays within a seven-year period, which signals that Medicare is financially unsustainable.
Specifically, Section 1105 of Title 31 of the U.S. Code requires:
“If there is a Medicare funding warning under section 801(a)(2) of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 made in a year, the President shall submit to Congress, within the I5-day period beginning on the date of the budget submission to Congress under subsection (a) for the succeeding year, proposed legislation to respond to such warning.”
The Medicare Trustees have issued this warning every spring for the past five years, but only President George W. Bush followed the law, submitting legislation to Congress in 2008 that lowered general revenue spending to the 45% level, restoring Medicare to financial sustainability. The measure was introduced in the House and the Senate, but the Democratic Congress under Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid failed to ever consider the measure.
Though the Medicare Trustees issued a warning in 2009, 2010, 2011, and again this spring, Mr. Obama has ignored the law each year and failed to submit the required legislation to Congress. His neglect has not gone unnoticed, as members of his own Cabinet have reminded him of his duty to do so, and Congressman Paul Ryan wrote a letter with Senator Jeff Sessions earlier this year demanding the president act.
In 2008, then-Senator Obama said he wanted to tackle Medicare in “first term as president.” He didn’t do so. Every spring for the past four years, the Medicare Trustees have reminded him of his legal responsibility to propose how to put Medicare’s finances in order.
The president’s failure to act is another example of how he has put politics ahead of the country’s best interests and in this case, how he has put politics ahead of the rule of law. It’s a failure of presidential leadership every American should remember as they watch the debate over Medicare.