Why Do Politicians Weaponize Medicare? Because It Works

by | Feb 21, 2023 | Health

The Medicare wars are back, and almost no one in Washington is surprised.

This time it’s Democrats accusing Republicans of wanting to maim the very popular federal health program that covers 64 million seniors and people with disabilities. In the past, Republicans have successfully pinned Democrats as the threat to Medicare.

Why do politicians persistently wield Medicare, as well as Social Security, as weapons? Because history shows that works at the ballot box. Generally, the party accused of menacing the sacrosanct entitlements pays a price — although it’s the millions of beneficiaries relying on feuding lawmakers to keep the programs funded who stand to lose the most.

Republicans have repeatedly warned they would hold raising the federal debt ceiling hostage unless Democrats negotiated changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The three programs together, along with funding for the Affordable Care Act and Children’s Health Insurance Program, account for nearly half of the federal budget.

The political bomb that went off during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 7 had been ticking for weeks. In his speech, Biden threatened to veto any Republican efforts to cut Social Security or Medicare. It was one of only three veto threats he made that night. During a trip to Florida after the speech, he said it more forcefully: “I know a lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me say this: If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare.”

Senior Republicans hav …

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