The Big Republican Medicare Lie Rears Its Ugly Head in Growing Number of Senate, House Races
Republicans Revive False Claim that Health Reform Cut Medicare Benefits in Desperate Effort to Distract Voters From Their Own Plan to Turn Medicare into Voucher Care
Fact Is, Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Is More Solvent and Seniors are Enjoying More Benefits Than Ever
Washington DC – It’s déjà vu all over again. During the 2010 and 2012 campaign seasons, Republican candidates and their shadowy Super PAC friends spend millions of dollars trying to deceive seniors, claiming the Affordable Care Act stole their Medicare benefits. And while independent fact checkers thoroughly examined and debunked the charge again and again – calling it ‘dubious’, ‘misleading’, the “opposite [of] true” – the big Republican Medicare lie is rearing its ugly head again in a wave of new attack ads in key Senate races like Arkansas, North Carolina, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, and Kentucky; and Congressional races like Arizona’s 1st District, Arizona’s 2nd, Florida’s 2nd, Florida’s 26th, New York’s 24th, Ohio’s 14th, West Virginia’s 3rd, Georgia’s 12th, and California’s 7th. It’s no wonder why: Republicans are trying to distract voters from their own extreme budget plan that would replace the guarantee of Medicare with a private voucher system that by design won’t keep pace with health costs and would stick seniors with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Get the Facts Below.
Brad Woodhouse, President, Americans United for Change: “A growing number of Republican campaigns and their Big Insurance backers are going back to their old Medi-scare playbook, but their attacks ring more hollow than ever. Funny, not one senior enrolled in traditional Medicare has stepped forward in all this time to complain about losing benefits since the Affordable Car Act became law. That’s because no one has. It’s another GOP myth that’s met the ‘death panel’. The reality is that thanks to the health law, Medicare is more solvent and seniors are enjoying more benefits than ever, like free preventative checkups and greater prescription drug coverage. The reality is, if Republicans had their way and the Ryan plan became law, there would be no Medicare guarantee – just private insurance vouchers guaranteed to dwindle in value. The fact is, Republicans voted dozens of times trying to reopen the Medicare ‘donut hole’ coverage gap and bring back the dark days of seniors choosing between food and medicine. Republicans even shut down the government trying to take seniors’ new Rx drug benefits away and shave years from Medicare’s life, and now they say they’re the ones to be trusted to protect the program? Now that’s rich. Republicans have a message for the 8 million Medicare beneficiaries who have so far saved over $10 billion on prescription drugs thanks to the health law: ‘Give it back.’ The contrast in records between the two parties could not be clearer: Democrats created Social Security and Medicare and have fought every day since to strengthen senior’s retirement and health security. Meanwhile, Republicans from Day One have tried to undermine Social Security and Medicare with benefit cuts and privatization schemes that would benefit their big insurance and Wall Street friends at great expense to seniors. To call Republican attacks on Democrats on Medicare ‘hypocritical’ would be an insult to hypocrites.”
FACT: AFFORDABLE CARE ACT DID NOT TOUCH ONE DIME OF MEDICARE BENEFITS
- Factcheck.org: GOP’s Medicare Cuts Claim the “Opposite [of] True”. According to FactCheck.org, “Republicans claim the president’s $716 billion “cuts” to Medicare hurt the program’s finances. But the opposite is true. These cuts in the future growth of spending prolong the life of the Medicare trust fund, stretching the program’s finances out longer than they would last otherwise.” [Factcheck.org, August 24, 2012]
- PolitiFact rules claim that the health law “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare “at the expense of the elderly” as “Mostly False”. According to Politifact: Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has made some of his sharpest attacks yet on Barack Obama’s health care law, calling the law "the greatest threat to Medicare." … Obama’s law did find $716 billion in spending reductions. They were mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries. The law made significant reductions to Medicare Advantage, a subset of Medicare plans run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But the plans have actually cost the government more than traditional Medicare. The health care law scales back the payments to private insurers. … Ryan’s statement is exaggerated and we rate it Mostly False. [PolitiFact.com, August 29th, 2012]
- CBS News: GOP’s “$716B Medicare cut attack is dubious”. CBS News reported: “According to the Congressional Budget Office, it's not the patients who would lose money. It's the providers. The president's changes mean the annual increases insurance companies receive will be trimmed; hospital reimbursement rates would be reduced; and payments to home health care workers will also be cut back. In fact, vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's proposed budget contains these same reductions. … The Congressional Budget Office concluded the cuts -- which do not come out of the Medicare trust fund -- actually make Medicare more efficient and extend the life of the program. Additionally, all but four members of the house GOP voted for those same cuts in passing Ryan's budget plan.” [CBS News, August 15, 2012]
- New York Times Editorial: $716 Billion Is “Not A ‘Cut’ In Benefits.” “In reality, the $716 billion is not a ‘cut’ in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.” [New York Times, August 18, 2012]
- Columbia Journalism Review: ACA “does not cut a dime from the basic Medicare benefits seniors receive” According to CJR: “The facts were and still are these: The health reform law, aka the Affordable Care Act, does call for cutting $500 billion from Medicare to help finance subsidies for the uninsured. The administration portrayed these as “savings”—in other words, money not spent for Medicare that could be used for another purpose. But the important take-away is this: the law does not cut a dime from the basic Medicare benefits seniors receive. All seniors will still get hospital benefits, coverage for physician services, lab tests, hospital outpatient care, prescription drugs, and so on, and will continue to receive them unless pols on both sides of the aisle succeed in changing the fundamental structure of Medicare. [Columbia Journalism Review, May 21, 2012]
- AARP: Claim that the ACA “Raids Medicare of $716 billion” is “Simply Not True”, “All guaranteed benefits in Medicare were protected.” According to a AARP: “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Congress’ independent and nonpartisan budget scorekeeper, recently estimated that the changes to Medicare in the ACA will reduce spending by a total of $716 billion between 2013 and 2022. ‘That’s where the number comes from,’ says Guterman. The largest portion of these savings would come from changes to provider payments and correcting overpayments to insurance companies that offer private Medicare plans. ‘And that projected savings will be used to close the prescription drug ‘doughnut hole’; to pay for free, preventive care for consumers; and to increase coverage for the uninsured,’ Lavarreda says. All guaranteed benefits in Medicare were protected. These measures actually strengthen Medicare’s fiscal viability: Before the ACA was passed, Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, which is used to pay hospital bills for Medicare beneficiaries, was projected to run out of money by 2017; after the law was passed, that date was pushed back to 2024.” [AARP, ‘11 Myths About Health Care Reform’, September, 2012]
FACT: MEDICARE RECIPIENTS HAVE ACCESS TO MORE BENEFITS THAN EVER THANKS TO THE HEALTH LAW
- AARP: "The good news for Medicare recipients is new protections and benefits in the health law that strengthen Medicare and give more coverage," says Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP's state and national group.The law shifts Medicare's focus to keeping older people healthy. Thus, it provides an annual wellness visit as well as preventive screenings — such as for diabetes and certain cancers — without charge. And it gradually closes the "doughnut hole" — the gap in Part D prescription drug coverage. People who reach the doughnut hole — the Part D coverage gap — get a 52.5 percent discount on brand-name drugs and 28 percent discount on generics. More than 7.1 million older and disabled people in the doughnut hole have saved $8.3 billion between 2010 and October 2013. [AARP, January/February 2014; AARP, Oct. 2013]
- HHS: ‘7.9 million people with Medicare have saved over $9.9 billion on prescription drugs; 37.2 million Medicare beneficiaries received free preventive services in 2013.” Since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, 7.9 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved $9.9 billion on prescription drugs, or an average of $1,265 per beneficiary. In 2013 alone, 4.3 million seniors and people with disabilities saved $3.9 billion, or an average of $911 per beneficiary. These figures are higher than in 2012, when 3.5 million beneficiaries saved $2.5 billion, for an average of $706 per beneficiary. Use of preventive services has also expanded among people with Medicare. In 2013, an estimated 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. This exceeds the comparable figure from 2012, when an estimated 34.1 million people with Medicare, including 26.1 million with traditional Medicare, received one or more preventive benefits with no out of pocket costs. [Department of Health and Human Services, March 21, 2014]
FACT: THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT BOOSTED MEDICARE’S SOLVENCY
- CBPP: ‘Medicare Is Not “Bankrupt”; Health Reform Has Improved Program’s Financing’ : According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “The 2014 report of Medicare’s trustees finds that Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund will remain solvent — that is, able to pay 100 percent of the costs of the hospital insurance coverage that Medicare provides — through 2030. … Health reform, along with other factors, has significantly improved Medicare’s financial outlook. The HI trust fund is now projected to remain solvent 13 years longer than before the Affordable Care Act was enacted. And the HI program’s projected 75-year shortfall of 0.87 percent of taxable payroll — that is, the total amount of earnings that will be subject to the Medicare payroll tax — is much less than the 3.88 percent of payroll that the trustees estimated before health reform.” [CBPP, August 4, 2014]
FACT: HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET WOULD END THE GUARENTEE OF MEDICARE
- AARP: Ryan Budget Would “Remove Medicare Guarantee.” According to the AARP: “Chairman Ryan’s proposed budget fails to address the high costs of health care and instead shifts costs onto seniors and future retirees. Repealing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act ignores the progress we’ve made to improve access to health care and protect against discrimination based on age, gender or medical history. Removing the Medicare guarantee of affordable health coverage for older Americans by implementing a premium support system and asking seniors and future retirees to pay more is not the right direction.” [AARP Press Release, 4/1/14]
- CBPP: Ryan Budget would “shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries.” The Medicare proposals in the 2015 budget resolution from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) are much the same as those in Ryan’s previous budgets. Once again, Chairman Ryan proposes to replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a premium-support voucher and raise the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 67. Together, these changes would shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries and (with the simultaneous repeal of health reform) leave many 65- and 66-year-olds without health coverage. [CBPP, April 8, 2014]
FACT: The Affordable Care Act curtails waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare, ends billions of dollars needless subsidies that were given to private insurance companies to poorly reinvent the Medicare wheel under so-called Medicare Advantage -- a more expensive and less efficient program than traditional Medicare that ended up raising premiums on all Medicare beneficiaries.
- NCPSSM:THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT CUTS WASTEFUL OVERPAYMENTS TO THE SO-CALLED MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PROGRAM According to NCPSSM: “Prior to the passage of the ACA, the federal government paid Medicare Advantage plans up to 14 percent more than traditional Medicare for providing the same services, costing taxpayers about $1,000 extra per beneficiary. The additional funds allowed Medicare Advantage plans to attract customers by offering benefits not included under traditional Medicare, such as gym memberships. Under the ACA, overpayments to Medicare Advantage phase down over time so that plans receive payments comparable to what it would cost traditional Medicare to cover the same seniors. This saves about $156 billion over 10 years. Reducing Medicare Advantage overpayments helps all Medicare beneficiaries by improving prescription drug coverage - closing the donut hole - and covering preventive services with no out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries. [NCPSSM]
- Economic Policy Institute, May 14, 2009: “In a nut shell, Medicare Advantage plans are private plans funded through Medicare to provide similar benefits, but at a 14% higher cost on average, according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent Congressional agency. Eliminating these overpayments would free up $157 billion over 10 years.
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 14, 2009: “The [Medicare Advantage] overpayments, which have totaled nearly $44 billion between 2004 and 2008, average more than $1,100 for each beneficiary enrolled in a private plan. By increasing Medicare costs, these overpayments also drive up premiums for beneficiaries in traditional Medicare by $86 per year for a couple, according to the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More than 31 million seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in regular Medicare are forced to pay higher premiums each month to subsidize these excess payments.’