Trimming Medicare to save the economy: Social media reactions

By Kelly Mehler
01:58 PM

President Barack Obama seems desperate for a compromise with Republicans over the debt ceiling. In a press conference on Monday, he once again agreed to consider cuts in Social Security and Medicare. The deal would cut benefits within Medicare and Social Security, in addition to raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. But as the weeks roll by, congressional Democrats are showing more displeasure on that endorsement, creating difficult choices for the administration.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated to the president that the Democratic Party would not approve of any proposal that included cutting benefits to Medicare and Social Security recipients.

We asked our Healthcare IT News and Healthcare Finance News social media followers what they sense the best bargain would be. Is this the end of the Medicare program? What are the repercussions of downsizing Social Security?

"I think it sounds like a GOP idea," said Twitter follower @MaryAnn_Jones. "Better to donate Congress's paychecks to help than to do that."

Sam Thiessen, CEO at Ag Bio-Power, and Twitter use @SamThiessen, tends to agree. "GOP top spending cut priorities are first, pay debt interest, then defense, SocSec." he tweeted this Wednesday. "Let Dems decide how to cut Medicare/welfare."

"What about Obama's sick priorities?" asked @jasonstromm. "He cut $500 billion from Medicare to pass ObamaCare!"

User @jasonstromm is referring to president Obama's 2009 healthcare law, which chopped $500 billion from the Medicare program by reducing subsidies to insurers who sell Medicare Advantage plans. He also lowered the rate of growth in which medical providers were getting paid. Later on, Republicans proposed a plan to rebuild Medicare completely by replacing it with endowments that seniors would use to buy private insurance coverage (AKA the 'voucher program').

"In coverage of debt press report says O wants to cut Medicare/SS without telling specifics. Exactly what cuts did O offer?" inquired former White House Press Secretary @AriFleischer.

The topic has been heating up on all social media networks this week. Until the final deal surfaces, there is no way of knowing what it will include. Medicare beneficiaries however, may be the ones who feel the most fallout from the cuts.

To break it down a bit, the House GOP Medicare proposal would cut $250 billion from the program, while raising the premiums for wealthier retirees and lowering costs for home health aides. This will ultimately raise co-payments for blood work and other lab services.

"If people don't get healthcare, they miss work, get sick & lose their jobs," said Healthcare IT News Facebook member Micah Nation. "With people spending more money on healthcare, it won't uplift the economy. It is a major step backwards."

Another Facebook group member, Jaime Robertito, puts it into perspective for us. "More (will) get sick. Wait longer to see a doctor. End up in ER needing more then system bargained for."

The overall conversation that seems to be riling up on social media sites this week is this notion of choosing sides. It's quite easy to put blame on one side of the coin – if you're a liberal you agree with the president, if you're conservative, you tend to agree with the GOP submission.

In this predicament then, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between the discussions happening in Congress, versus what we're seeing on social media platforms.

Time is running out, though. In a recent Pew poll, a majority of Americans said Medicare recipients already pay enough for healthcare. The AARP, the nation's leading support group for seniors, also oppose the inclusion of Medicare in any debt ceiling compromise.

Weighing in on the conversation via our LinkedIn page is Max Cohen. "If we cut Medicare privileges we hurt those individuals who rely on Medicare in order to obtain proper medical assistance," he wrote. "Doctors are likely to stop accepting Medicare patients, saying they either have to make up for the lost revenue by increasing their pay or sending them else where for medical assistance."

The Pew survey results also shows that protecting entitlements is favored among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, young, old, rich and poor. At least that is one belief the two conflicting parties share.

You can see the rest of the results of the Pew survey here:

Is it possible to reduce Medicare payments to lower the nation's deficit without changing the foundation of the system? Share your thoughts on our LinkedIn Group Page, Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @HITNewsTweet and @HFNewsTweet.


Update: In a press conference Friday, Obama supported a plan to means-testing on Medicare. "Me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays would be appropriate," he said in a press conference. "What we are not willing to do is restructure the program in the ways we have seen coming out of the House in recent months."

Many are already anticipating displeasure among Obama's own party, yet forcing the nation's top earners to give more into the system than other lower and middle-class equivalents sounds like a fair policy. A petition from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has been floating around Twitter and Facebook, stating that if the president cuts Medicare, Social Securty of Medicaid from their families, he should not expect a penny or an hour of their time in 2012. The committee hopes to reach 200,000 electronic signatures.

In only five hours, 198,395 people have signed the document.