Decoding Republican Medicare-speak

As Vice President Joe Biden said during his 2012 debate with Congressman Paul Ryan, “Use your common sense, folks. Who do you trust on Medicare?” Republicans may huff and puff about “preserving” Medicare, but their record on the subject says something completely different. Republicans opposed Medicare from its very inception and have been trying to dismantle it ever since. And just to help us remember that track record, as the war on Medicare continues, Media Matters Action Network has created a helpful glossary that lists terms and phrases frequently used by Republicans–along with their decoded meanings. So, the next time you hear a Republican pontificate about “saving” Medicare, you won’t have to wait for the translation.


“Reform Medicare” = Cut your benefits

“Save Medicare” = Privatize Medicare

“Strengthen Medicare” = End Medicare as we know it

“Harness the markets” = Turn Medicare into a little coupon

“Unleash the markets” = Let private insurers and drug companies rip you off

“Make it sustainable” = You pay more for less

“We all have to sacrifice” = You pay more so the wealthy pay less

“We all have to make tough choices” = We don’t want to ask the wealthy to pay more

And here’s a late-breaking addendum for the glossary: In a letter sent to President Obama in December 2012, during the “fiscal cliff” lame-duck Congressional session, House Speaker John Boehner used  a code-phrase about “reforming Medicare structure.” What did he mean by that? According to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, the “structure” of Medicare refers to the basic regulations of the program. Boehner ostensibly used that phrase to hide his real intention: to raise the Medicare eligibility age from its current 65 to a proposed 67. But he didn’t want to actually say that, of course, because that change would be extremely unpopular. So he encoded it.

Plus, a few more facts to sprinkle into your next Medicare conversation with Uncle Harry:

  • Half of all Medicare beneficiaries had incomes below $22,000 in 2010, and less than 1% had incomes over $250,000.
  • The health care law [ObamaCare] preserves every dime of Medicare benefits, strengthens the trust fund, and guarantees your Medicare coverage for life — just what you’d expect from the party that created Medicare and fought for half a century to protect it.