The Chamber Of Commerce's Ads Can't Get Much "Worse" Than This

October 22, 2010 11:31 am ET

In a new version of its "Worse" ad, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce takes aim at Reps. Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) over their support for health care reform. The Chamber's ads claims that Braley and Grijalva have made problems such as unemployment, spending, and debt worse by supporting "big-government health care." The ads follow up this falsehood by asserting that Braley and Grijalva voted to "gut Medicare," and are therefore hurting families in the states they represent. Contrary to the Chamber's accusations, the Affordable Care Act actually strengthens Medicare without reducing seniors' benefits. 

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce: "Worse"

Unemployment. Spending. Debt. Washington's broken and Congressman [Bruce Braley's/Raul Grijalva's] policies are making it worse. [Braley/Grijalva] voted for Nancy Pelosi's trillion dollar big-government health care. And [Braley/Grijalva] voted to gut Medicare by $500 billion. Over [60,000 Iowa/300,000 Arizona] seniors face reduced benefits because of [Braley/Grijalva]. Government-run health care, Medicare cuts. Have you had enough? Tell Congressman [Braley/Grijalva]: stop hurting [Iowa/Arizona] families. The U.S. Chamber is responsible for the content of this advertising.

Health Care Reform Helps Seniors By Strengthening Medicare

Health Care Reform "Will Keep Paying Medical Bills For Seniors." According to PoliFact.com: "The government-run Medicare program will keep paying medical bills for seniors, but it will begin implementing cost controls on health care providers, mostly through penalties and incentives. The legislation would reduce payments for hospital-acquired infections or preventable hospital admissions. For Medicare Advantage, the federal government intends to reduce extra payments, taking away subsidies to private insurance companies. Insurers will likely cut benefits in order to not lose profits. The bill does not address the 'doctor's fix,' an expected proposal that Congress usually passes to prevent doctors' Medicare payments from severe cuts." [PoliFact.com, 3/18/10; emphasis in original]

FactCheck.org: "None Of The 'Savings' Or 'Cuts' (Whichever You Prefer) Come From Reducing Current Or Future Benefit Levels For Seniors." According to FactCheck.org, "The House bill would trim projected increases in payments for hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others, including home health care providers and suppliers of motor-driven wheelchairs. But it also proposes what CBO estimates is a $245 billion increase in spending for doctors, by canceling a scheduled 21 percent cut in physician payments. None of the 'savings' or 'cuts' (whichever you prefer) come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors." [FactCheck.org, accessed 9/9/09]

Changes To Medicare Advantage Come With Extra Benefits For All Medicare Enrollees.  FactCheck.org reported: "The CBO has estimated that the move would change the value of the extra benefits Medicare Advantage participants get, but they would not receive fewer benefits than the rest of seniors who aren't on the Advantage plans. The bill does add some extras for Medicare beneficiaries, eliminating copays and deductibles for preventive services, for example." [FactCheck.org, 12/2/09, emphasis added]

Health Care Reform Fills The Prescription Drug "Doughnut Hole." According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "In 2010, Part D enrollees with any spending in the coverage gap will receive a $250 rebate. Beginning in 2011, enrollees with spending in the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, provided by the pharmaceutical industry. The law phases in Medicare coverage in the gap for generic drugs beginning in 2011, and for brand-name drugs beginning in 2013. By 2020, Part D enrollees will be responsible for 25 percent of the cost of both brands and generics in the gap, down from 100 percent in 2010." [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 8/25/10]

Health Care Reform Improves Medicare's Coverage Of Preventative Benefits.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "Beginning in 2011, no coinsurance or deductibles will be charged in traditional Medicare for preventive services that are rated A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Medicare will cover a free annual comprehensive wellness visit and personalized prevention plan." [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 8/25/10]

Click HERE for details on the trillions of dollars Republicans have voted to cut from Medicare.

Medicare "Cuts" Are Actually Savings From Phasing Out "Substantial Overpayment" To Medicare Advantage

CBO: Cost Changes To Medicare Made From Savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office: "Changes to the Medicare program and changes to Medicaid and CHIP other than those associated directly with expanded insurance coverage: Savings from those provisions are estimated to total $93 billion in 2019, and CBO projects that, in combination, they will increase by 10 percent to 15 percent per year in the next decade." [CBO.gov, 10/7/09]

New England Journal of Medicine: The Affordable Care Act Phases Out "Substantial Overpayments" To Medicare Advantage Plans. From the New England Journal of Medicine:

A phased elimination of the substantial overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans, which now enroll nearly 25% of Medicare beneficiaries, will produce an estimated $132 billion in savings over 10 years.

[...]

The ACA also produces nearly $200 billion in savings by assuming that providers can improve their productivity as firms in other industries have done. On the basis of this presumed improvement, the law reduces Medicare's annual "market basket" updates for most types of providers - a provision that has generated controversy. [New England Journal of Medicine7/8/10]

Cuts Would Only Affect Medicare Advantage Plans. As reported by Kaiser Health News:

The new health law will cut $136 billion in spending on the Advantage program by 2019, which currently pays private plans to administer Medicare benefits and pays them about 14 percent more than the per-patient cost of the traditional Medicare program. Plans use that subsidy to lure members with lower premium costs or extra benefits not normally paid for by Medicare, such as vision care or better prescription drug coverage. Some Democrats and analysts have argued the higher rates are wasteful. 

Even experts who support the change concede that the impact of the cuts could be evident. Robert Berenson, a scholar at the Urban Institute and former Medicare official, said some Advantage plan members will notice skimpier benefits, "but the Republicans have really exaggerated that this will wipe out the Advantage plans." 

Marsha Gold, a health policy analyst for the private research group Mathematica, said, "Over time, there will be less rich benefits or higher premiums, but it's going to be gradual," noting that the largest cuts do not begin until 2015. 

[Kaiser Health News, 4/6/10]

Medicare Advantage Costs Taxpayers 14% More Than Traditional Medicare. As reported by PolitiFact.com:

Let's back-up for a minute and explain Medicare Advantage: There are two basic ways most people get Medicare coverage. They enroll in traditional Medicare and a prescription drug plan through the government and maybe buy a supplemental policy to cover most out-of-pocket costs. Or they enroll in Medicare Advantage programs (they include drug plans), which are run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage programs typically have more generous benefits such as dental and vision coverage. Some plans even pay the patient's monthly Medicare premium, which can amount to about $100.

The Medicare Advantage program was intended to bring more efficiency from the private sector to the Medicare program, but it hasn't worked as planned. A June 2009 analysis from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said that the Advantage programs costs taxpayers on average of 14 percent more than the traditional Medicare plan. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that the Medicare Advantage plan wastes public money that could be put to better use.

[PolitiFact.com, 9/20/10]

Health Care Reform Is Not "Government-Run Health Care"

PolitiFact: "Obama's Plan Leaves In Place The Private Health Care System." Analyzing Sen. Tom Coburn's claim that President Obama's health care reform plan amounted to a government takeover of health care, PolitiFact.com wrote:

[H]e's wrong that Obama's plan offers government-run health care.

In fact, Obama's plan leaves in place the private health care system, but seeks to expand it to the uninsured. It increases eligibility for the poor and children to enroll in initiatives like Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and creates pools for individuals to buy their own cheaper insurance. It also outlines strategies to rein in costs for everyone, such as electronic medical records and preventive care.

[...]

That may be Sen. Coburn's opinion on what could happen, but it's definitely not part of Obama's plan. And Coburn was very specific in saying that "under the Obama plan, all the health care in this country is eventually going to be run by the government." That gives the incorrect impression that Obama is promoting a government-run health care system. He's not. We rate Coburn's statement False.

[PolitiFact.com, 3/4/10, emphasis added]

Health Care Reform Will Reduce The Deficit By Billions

CBO: Health Care Reform Package Would Reduce The Deficit By $138 Billion By 2019. According to the Congressional Budget Office: "The reconciliation proposal includes provisions related to health care and revenues, many of which would amend H.R. 3590. It also includes amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965, which authorizes most federal programs involving postsecondary education. CBO and JCT estimate that enacting both pieces of legislation - H.R. 3590 and the reconciliation proposal - would produce a net reduction in federal deficits of $138 billion over the 2010-2019 period as result of changes in direct spending and revenue." [CBO, 3/18/10]

CBO To GOP: Repealing Cost-Saving Provisions Of The Affordable Care Act Would Increase Deficit By $455 Billion. In a letter to Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), the Congressional Budget Office wrote: "Finally, you asked what the net deficit impact would be if certain provisions of PPACA and the Reconciliation Act that were estimated to generate net savings were eliminated - specifically, those which were originally estimated to generate a net reduction in mandatory outlays of $455 billion over the 2010-2019 period. The estimate of $455 billion mentioned in your letter represents the net effects of many provisions. Some of those provisions generated savings for Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program, and some generated costs. If those provisions were repealed, CBO estimates that there would be an increase in deficits similar to its original estimate of $455 billion in net savings over that period." [CBO, 8/24/10]

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