NRCC Lies About Democratic Plan For Medicare

June 08, 2011 6:01 pm ET

Amid complaints that Democrats are scaring seniors about the GOP Medicare plan, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) jumped into the fray with an ad clearly aimed at scaring seniors about the Democratic plan for Medicare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act. The NRCC attacks the Affordable Care Act by taking media quotes out of context to claim it would “decimate Medicare” and will lead to “political rationing.” These are straight-up lies considering the health care law extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund and prohibits rationing care. The health care law also protects and expands Medicare by cutting down on waste, fraud and abuse in the system, and by closing the prescription drug “donut hole” and providing additional preventive and wellness care to seniors.

NRCC: "Exposed"

To grow old in America is to be one illness away from bankruptcy. And Jerry Costello is making it worse. Costello backs a Democrat plan that media says would "decimate Medicare." The Costello-backed plan could lead to "political rationing" of health care. Taking choices from seniors. "Shred the social safety net." And leave seniors at risk. Call Jerry Costello. Tell him to stop bankrupting Medicare. The National Republican Congressional Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

NRCC's Press Quotes Are Taken Out Of Context

Press Quotes In Ad Were Taken Out Of Context. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote: "The ad claims (emphasis mine) that Costello 'backs a Democrat plan the media says would decimate Medicare.' But the source for the claim is an editorial in Investors Business Daily. The ad also says the Democratic plan would 'shred the safety net.' But the USA Today editorial cited as the source makes a less direct claim: 'Democrats know that the simple math of health care will eventually shred the social safety net they seek to protect.'" [Washington Post, 6/7/11]

"Shred The Safety Net" Quote Doesn't Refer To Affordable Care Act But Rather To The Economic Situation Of Medicare And Health Care System. From USA Today:

Ryan plan or not, America can't prosper if spending on Medicare and health care generally continues to grow like a cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services projects that Medicare's cost to taxpayers will rise from an already sky-high $544 billion this year to $978 billion in 2019. That additional $434 billion equals about two-thirds of the national defense budget, and it is an 80% increase in less than a decade.

This unsustainable growth will happen without any action by Congress as Baby Boomers retire and the health care system drains dollars at a dizzying pace.


Just as surely, Democrats know that the simple math of health care will eventually shred the social safety net they seek to protect. Demonization of the Ryan plan might be a short-term political winner, but unless the Democrats propose a viable money-saving alternative, the future of Medicare might be the least of their problems. [USA Today, 5/26/11]

"Decimate Medicare" Quote Comes From An Editorial That Provides No Backup For The Claim. From Investor's Business Daily:

By scaring voters about Paul Ryan's Medicare reform, Democrats won a solidly Republican New York congressional seat. But the Ryan plan can and should be a political winner - because it saves Medicare.


Republicans have no reason to be shy, since they have solid evidence on their side. The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis analyzed the economic effects of Ryan's plan for fiscal year 2012 through 2021, using accepted econometric models.

The results: Ryan's plan adds an annual average of 1.6 million more private-sector jobs above the Congressional Budget Office's alternative budget baseline. By 2021, GDP under Ryan is more than $400 billion above the baseline. Disposable after-tax income by 2021 is $164 billion above. Private savings increase by $202 billion on average, and household net worth rises by an annual average of $564 billion over 10 years. Government receipts, meanwhile, are more than $590 billion higher.

How many NY-26 voters knew all this Tuesday? How many knew it's really Democrats who would decimate Medicare by default? Obviously not enough to defeat the Medi-Scare tactics Democrats promise to continue into the 2012 election. [Investor's Business Daily, 5/25/11]

Click here for much more on Investor's Business Daily's role in the right-wing noise machine from Media Matters for America.

Affordable Care Act Doesn't "Decimate Medicare" But Rather Extends The Life Of Medicare

Medicare Trustees Report Shows Affordable Care Act Extends The Life Of Medicare. According to the Huffington Post:

The Medicare trust fund will last eight years longer than it would have without the passage of last year's health care law, the program's trustees announced Friday in a report.

The nonpartisan lead actuary for Medicare, Rick Foster, estimated that without the health care overhaul, the program's trust fund would have run dry by 2016. With the law in effect, Foster projected, the trust fund will last through 2024.


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius highlighted the boost reform gave to Medicare. "Over the next 75 years, Medicare's Hospital Insurance costs are projected to be about 25 percent lower due to the new law," she said in a statement. "And without the historic deficit reduction in the Affordable Care Act, Medicare would have gone bankrupt in 2016 -- only five years from now." [Huffington Post, 5/13/11]

Foster: Affordable Care Act Extends The Life Of Medicare By Eight Years. In an interview with Slate's David Weigel, Richard Foster, the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid said: "Under current law...including the Affordable Care Act, we're estimating that the trust fund would be exhausted in 2024. In the absence of the savings under the Affordable Care Act, a corresponding date of exhaustion would be 2016. So the Affordable Care Act, in the new projection, postpones the exhaustion by eight years. That's down from 12 years in last year's projection." [Slate, 5/16/11]

Affordable Care Act Prohibits "Rationing" Of Care

IPAB Cannot Ration Care, Increase Taxes, Change Benefits Or Eligibility, Or Increase Premiums And Cost-Sharing Requirements. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "The Board is prohibited from submitting proposals that would ration care, increase taxes, change Medicare benefits or eligibility, increase beneficiary premiums and cost-sharing requirements, or reduce low-income subsidies under Part D. Prior to 2019, the Board is also prohibited from recommending changes in payments to providers and suppliers that are scheduled to receive a reduction in their payment updates in excess of a reduction due to productivity adjustments, as specified in the health reform law." [Kaiser Family Foundation, May 2010] "It's Wrong To Say That The Advisory Board Will Ration Care." addressed Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) claim that IPAB rations care:

Ryan twice warns of Obama's plan to "ration" health care for the elderly. He also says, "The greatest threat to the health security of America's seniors is the President's plan to deeply and systematically ration Medicare."

Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney told us in an e-mail that the claim of rationing refers to funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board created by the federal health care law. But it's wrong to say that the advisory board will ration care or that it will be run by bureaucrats, as we wrote when Sarah Palin made a similar claim.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says the advisory board "shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums." Also, the board isn't made up of Washington bureaucrats. The 15 voting members will be appointed by the president in consultation with congressional leaders; they must include doctors and other health care professionals, economists and health care finance experts, and representatives of consumers and seniors, as the American Medical Association explains. There will also be three non-voting members: the Health and Human Services secretary, and the administrators of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health Resources and Services Administration. [, 5/6/11, emphasis added]

For more on the IPAB, read our full primer.

Affordable Care Act Protects Medicare...

The Affordable Care Act Cracks Down On Waste, Fraud, And Abuse. From The Hill: "Healthcare providers would be subject to new screening measures based on their level of risk to federal health programs, under new proposed regulations released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The fraud, waste and abuse prevention measures were called for in the new healthcare reform law. [...] Improper payments cost federal health programs about $55 billion a year." [The Hill, 9/20/10]

The Affordable Care Act Provides Tools To Crack Down On Health Care Fraud. From the Seattle Times: "Investigators have new tools this year to help crack down on health care fraud, with the Justice Department and the Health and Human Services Department working cooperatively to police companies. The newly enacted Affordable Care Act is designed to lengthen prison sentences in criminal cases and the new law provides an additional $300 million over the next 10 years for stronger enforcement. It also gives the government new authority to step up oversight of companies participating in Medicare and Medicaid." [Seattle Times, 5/13/10]

The Health Care Law Combats Fraud From Several Angles. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Specifically, the proposed rule will:

  • Establish the requirements for suspending payments to providers and suppliers based on credible allegations of fraud in Medicare and Medicaid;
  • Establish the authority for imposing a temporary moratorium on Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP enrollment on providers and suppliers when necessary to help prevent or fight fraud, waste, and abuse without impeding beneficiaries' access to care.
  • Strengthen and build on current provider enrollment and screening procedures to more accurately assure that fraudulent providers are not gaming the system and that only qualified health care providers and suppliers are allowed to enroll in and bill Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP;
  • Outline requirements for states to terminate providers from Medicaid and CHIP when they have been terminated by Medicare or by another state Medicaid program or CHIP;
  • Solicit input on how to best structure and develop provider compliance programs, now required under the Affordable Care Act, that will ensure providers are aware of and comply with CMS program requirements. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 9/20/10]

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] Cost Saving Provisions "Not A Slashing Of The Current Medicare Budget Or Benefits." According to "Whatever you want to call them, it's a $500 billion reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits. It's true that those who get their coverage through Medicare Advantage's private plans (about 22 percent of Medicare enrollees) would see fewer add-on benefits; the bill aims to reduce the heftier payments made by the government to Medicare Advantage plans, compared with regular fee-for-service Medicare. The Democrats' bill also boosts certain benefits: It makes preventive care free and closes the 'doughnut hole,' a current gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors." [, 3/19/10]

Health Care Reform "Will Keep Paying Medical Bills For Seniors." According to "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." [, 3/18/10; emphasis in original]

...And Improves Medicare Benefits For Seniors

The "Donut Hole" Is The Gap In Drug Coverage When Annual Costs Are Between $2,830 And $6,440. reported: "What's the donut hole? In addition to a $310 deductible, Medicare beneficiaries pay 25% of their drug costs until the total reaches $2,830 for the year. Then, they fall into a coverage gap. At that point, enrollees must pay all costs out of pocket until their annual expenses exceed $6,440. After that, seniors pay 5% of drug costs for the rest of the year." [, 6/7/10, emphasis added]

3 Million Seniors Enrolled In Medicare Received $250 Rebate Check To Address Costs Of The "Donut Hole" From 2010. From The Hill: "Three million seniors in the so-called 'doughnut hole' have already received discounted prescription drugs through a highly touted provision of the healthcare reform law, President Obama's health department announced Friday morning. According to the Friday morning announcement, three million Medicare beneficiaries in 2010 received a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check for costs in the doughnut hole." [The Hill, 1/21/11]

The Law Eventually Phases Out The Coverage Gap, And In 2011, Seniors Who Reach It Receive A 50 Percent Discount On Brand Name Prescription Drugs. From the Huffington Post: "The rebate checks come as the first step in a larger effort to close the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage. Starting in January, beneficiaries will begin receiving a 50-percent discount on brand name drugs, and eventually the gap in coverage will be closed completely." [Huffington Post, 8/31/10]

  • Manufacturers That Produce The Majority Of Brand Names Drugs Used By Medicare Patients Participate In The Discount Program. According to "If a drug company has signed an agreement to participate in the Discount Program, all of the covered Part D brand-name drugs they make are covered during the coverage gap for that calendar year. ... In 2011, manufacturers that produce over 99% of the brand-name drugs used by people with Medicare are participating in this program." [, November 2010]
  • Seniors In The Donut Hole Get Additional Discounts On Generic Drugs. According to Seniors "will also get a 7% discount on generic drugs while in the Donut Hole" and "can expect additional savings on [their] covered brand-name and generic drugs while in the coverage gap over the next 10 years until the gap is closed in 2020." [, 12/27/10]

Medicare Recipients And Seniors With Private Health Insurance Are Eligible For Free Preventive Care Services. From a CBS News report on benefits of the Affordable Care Act: "3. FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER MEDICARE-- Eliminates co-payments for preventive services and exempts preventive services from deductibles under the Medicare program. Effective beginning January 1, 2011. [...]9. FREE PREVENTIVE CARE UNDER NEW PRIVATE PLANS-- Requires new private plans to cover preventive services with no co-payments and with preventive services being exempt from deductibles. Effective 6 months after enactment. (Beginning in 2018, this requirement applies to all plans.)" [CBS News, 3/21/10, emphasis original]

The Affordable Care Act Provides Disease Prevention Care And Screenings. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force provides a list of preventive services that are provided under the Affordable Care Act, such as cancer screenings (e.g. breast, cervical and colorectal cancer), as well as diet and general wellness screenings (e.g. cholesterol, obesity, blood pressure, osteoporosis and aortic aneurysm tests). [U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, August 2010]

Medicare Recipients Are Eligible For Free Annual Wellness Visit. According to AARP: Seniors "will no longer have to pay for Medicare-approved preventive care services. ... The new preventive benefits start in 2011 and include ... [a] free annual wellness visit." [, November 2010]

  • More Than 150,000 Medicare Beneficiaries Have Received A Free Annual Wellness Visit So Far In 2011. From a March 16, 2011, Health and Human Services news release: "Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new report showing that in less than two months, more than 150,000 seniors and others with Medicare have received an annual wellness visit. This is a preventive benefit now covered by Medicare free of charge when obtained by a participating health care professional, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, along with many other recommended preventive services. ... Many more people with Medicare are expected to receive annual wellness visits and other recommended preventive services thanks to the Affordable Care Act." [, 3/16/11]