During Monday’s AARP town hall meeting on health care reform, Barack Obama tried to allay the fears of senior citizens by insisting that he would not cut Medicare benefits as part of his reforms. “No one is talking” about cuts to Medicare benefits, Obama insisted:

Well, no one is talking about it … except Barack Obama, apparently. Just a few weeks ago, Obama outlined cuts to Medicare that add up to over $300 billion in reductions. Obama claims that he meant to trim waste, but how exactly did he define waste, anyway?

President Barack Obama Saturday proposed an additional $313 billion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to pay for health care reforms expected to cost about $1 trillion over the next decade. …

About $110 billion of the new cuts would come from reducing scheduled increases in Medicare payments. That would encourage health care providers to increase productivity, White House budget director Peter Orszag told reporters.

Obama also proposed cutting payments to hospitals to treat uninsured patients by $106 billion on the assumption those ranks would decline as health care reforms phase in.

An additional $75 billion would come from “better pricing of Medicare drugs,” Orszag said, adding the White House was in talks with stakeholders over the best way to do that.

The remaining $22 billion in proposed cuts would come from smaller reforms, such as adjusting payment rates for physician imaging services and cutting waste, fraud and abuse.

I’m not sure which school of economics Orszag and Obama attended, but cutting payments to providers won’t incentivize them to “increase productivity.”  It will push them to take fewer Medicare patients.  If they don’t get paid enough to provide the services, which is what the AMA has steadfastly argued and why more providers refuse to take Medicare patients, reducing the existing payments means that fewer Medicare patients can access care and will have their choices reduced.

Those who participate in the Medicare Advantage program, and who pay premiums to join, would normally have better options for seeking care, as the public-private partnership works to coordinate benefits and get better and more reliable payments to providers.  Unfortunately, the millions of people in MA will also be out of luck.  Obama’s message to seniors who use the program to get some rational coverage is this: choose between Medicare and private insurance, but you can’t have both.  And good luck in finding an insurer who will replace Medicare for seniors and the disabled, pal!

It’s a shockingly dishonest performance, and a good look into the ObamaCare future for America’s seniors and the middle-aged voters who will join them soon.