AP again advances falsehood that health reform "will mean cuts in Medicare benefits"

››› ››› LILY YAN

In an August 24 article, the Associated Press uncritically reported that "[s]eniors worry that paying for the $1 trillion-plus, 10-year [health care] overhaul will mean cuts in Medicare benefits" without noting that, in the words of FactCheck.org, "[t]he claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false." Additionally, AARP has also rebutted the notion that health reform will reduce Medicare benefits.

From Beth Fouhy's AP article:

Among senior citizens, the fear is palpable about Obama's efforts, reflected in public polling that shows support falling for his proposals. Seniors worry that paying for the $1 trillion-plus, 10-year overhaul will mean cuts in Medicare benefits.

Talk of death panels and "pulling the plug on grandma," although discredited, has scared seniors. Sensing opportunity, the Republican National Committee announced a "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights" Monday that pledges to protect the elderly from any attempt to ration health care because of age.

FactCheck.org, AARP have rebutted notion that health reform will reduce Medicare benefits

FactCheck.org: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."

From FactCheck.org's August 14 article, "Seven Falsehoods About Health Care":

False: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed

The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.

The truth is that the pending House bill extracts $500 billion from projected Medicare spending over 10 years, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, by doing such things as trimming projected increases in the program's payments for medical services, not including physicians. Increases in other areas, such as payments to doctors, bring the net savings down to less than half that amount. But none of the predicted savings -- or cuts, depending on one's perspective -- come from reducing current or future benefits for seniors.

The president has promised repeatedly that benefit levels won't be reduced, reiterating the point recently in Portsmouth, N.H.:

Obama, Aug. 11: Another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not.

Is he wrong? Not according to AARP, by far the nation's largest organization representing the over-50 population. In a "Myths vs. Facts" rundown, AARP says:

AARP: Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.

To be sure, Obama hasn't always thought that Medicare "savings" could be accomplished without actual cuts in benefits. Last fall, his campaign ran two television ads accusing Sen. John McCain of wanting "a 22 percent cut in [Medicare] benefits." The basis for the ads was a newspaper article in which a McCain aide said the Arizona Republican would cut Medicare costs. But the aide said nothing about cutting benefits, in fact quite the contrary. We called the claim "false" when Obama made it against McCain, and it's still false now when Obama's critics are making the same accusation against him. [FactCheck.org, 8/14/09]

FactCheck.org: "Congress isn't proposing to cut [Medicare] benefit levels." According to an August 18 FactCheck.org article titled, "More 'Senior Scare' ": "None of the 'savings' or 'cuts' (whichever you prefer)" to Medicare in the House bill "come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors." From the article:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House bill would result in "savings" of $219 billion after all increases and decreases are netted out. 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, 8/18/09]

AARP says idea that "Health care reform will hurt Medicare" is a "Myth." From AARP's "Myths vs. Facts" on health care reform:

Myth: Health care reform will hurt Medicare.

Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.

Fact: Health care reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap or "doughnut hole" so they can get better afford the drugs they need.

Fact: Health care reform will protect seniors' access to their doctors and reduce the cost of preventive services so patients stay healthier.

Fact: Health care reform will reduce costly, preventable hospital readmissions, saving patients and Medicare money.

Fact: Rather than weaken Medicare, health care reform will strengthen the financial status of the Medicare program.

Bottom Line: For people in Medicare, health care reform is about lowering prescription drug costs for people in the "doughnut hole", keeping the doctor of your choice, improving the quality of care, and eliminating billions in waste that is causing poor care and medical errors. [AARP, accessed 8/25/09]

AP has previously advanced GOP claim that health reform means "massive cuts to Medicare"

August 18 AP article uncritically quoted GOP senator's claim that health reform means "massive cuts to Medicare." As Media Matters for America has noted, in an August 18 AP article, David Espo quoted Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) claim that health reform proposals will be paid for "through massive cuts to Medicare" without pointing out that "[t]he claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."

Fearmongering to seniors on Medicare cuts is a GOP talking point

On the same day as Fouhy's AP article, GOP issued press release fearmongering that Medicare will be "cut ... in the name of health care reform." On August 24, the Republican National Committee issued a press release fearmongering that Medicare benefits will be cut, claiming in part that "Medicare should not be raided to pay for another entitlement."

From the RNC release:

Republicans believe that reforms to America's health care system are necessary, but that reform should first do no harm, especially to our seniors.

That's why Republicans are calling for a Seniors' Health Care Bill Of Rights that will:

PROTECT MEDICARE AND NOT CUT IT IN THE NAME OF HEALTH CARE REFORM: President Obama and Congressional Democrats are promoting a government-run health care experiment that will cut over $500 billion from Medicare to be used to pay for their plan. Medicare should not be raided to pay for another entitlement.

[...]

ENSURE SENIORS CAN KEEP THEIR CURRENT COVERAGE: As Democrats continue to propose steep cuts to Medicare in order to pay for their government-run health care experiment, these cuts threaten millions of seniors with being forced from their current Medicare Advantage plans. Republicans believe that seniors should not be targeted by a government-run health care bill and forced out of their current Medicare coverage. [GOP.com, 8/24/09]

GOP consultant Luntz: Obama is "declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to pay for health care." On the August 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity, GOP consultant Frank Luntz forwarded the false conservative talking point that President Obama plans to cut Medicare benefits, claiming that it "is almost like he's declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to pay for health care" and that it is a "fact" that "[t]hey're talking about lowering the reimbursements for Medicare."

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Associated Press
Person
Beth Fouhy
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