Hatch’s plans

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How can the government squeeze more money out of the elderly? Raise the Medicare eligibility age, privatize the program, and block grant Medicaid, suggests Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Sound familiar? It’s essentially the Clinton-Gingrich pact from 1997 that only fell apart because of the President’s blow job. Now, with another conservative Democrat in the White House and Republican in the Speaker’s chair, the plan’s being floated again.

As Shamus Cooke of Global Research wrote today:

The main reason that health care reform became a national priority for Obama is because it was a priority for big business: corporations have long complained that their employee health care costs were too high. And they’ve always hated paying payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Obama has responded gallantly to these grievances, as he did to the banks when they demanded to be bailed out with taxpayer money.

Obama has remained mostly quiet about his Medicare plans, but has stated repeatedly ” all options are on the table” (his favorite Bushism). The secretiveness is based on the unpopularity of the options, all of which have already been openly discussed in the media in the last two years of bi-partisan “Grand Bargain” haggling.

Orrin Hatch, as the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, will play a central role in the budget kabuki this month and afterward. In preparation, I’ve taken a look at Hatch’s top twenty career donors from OpenSecrets.org.

Many of the Senator’s contributions come from the pharmaceutical and health care industries. His top donor, giving him over $110,000 since 1989, was health insurance behemoth Blue Cross Blue Shield. Supplemental health insurance company Aflac (fourth) contributed $82,000. The world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, came in third. Competitors GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly were fifth and sixth. Pharma multinational Amgen (ninth); kidney dialysis supply company Fresenius Medical Care (12th); rehabilitative hospital operators HealthSouth (15th); and Schering-Plough (17th), now merged with Merck & Co.

Two of Hatch’s top twenty donors have specific Utah ties: O. C. Tanner (seventh), a Salt Lake City human resources company; Provo-based direct-sales supplement marketers Nu Skin Enterprises (20th).

The rest of the Senator’s list contains an amalgam of wealthy corporations. Cerberus Capital Management, an investment firm, ranked second with $106,500. Also contributing significant amounts were hotel franchisor Marriott International (eighth); London advertising giant WPP (tenth); telecom multinational AT&T (11th); computer company Oracle (13th); supermajor oil and gas corporation Chevron (14th); the sixth-largest firm in the US, conglomerate General Electric (16th); accounting powerhouse Ernst & Young (18th); and international law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (19th).

Jessica Zigmond of Modern Healthcare reports the roles Obama and Hatch have chosen — and that both wish to champion “entitlement reform”, and are only haggling over what form those cuts will take.

The president reiterated his view that the ideal way to reduce the deficit is through a deal that includes both spending cuts and tax reform. And if Congress can’t agree on a larger deal by March 1, Obama added, lawmakers should pass a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms that would also further delay the sequester for a few more months.

“I’ve offered sensible reforms to Medicare and other entitlements, and my healthcare proposals achieve the same amount of savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms that have been proposed by the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission,” the president said.

***

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member on the influential Senate Finance Committee…. chastised the president’s plan to delay the looming sequester.

“When it comes to our debt, we need to focus on structural entitlement reforms,” Hatch said in a statement.

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