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Another day, another round of lies about Obamacare and Medicare

August 17, 2012

As the November election nears, opponents of the Affordable Care Act are ratcheting up the rhetoric and resorting to new lows in an effort to divert attention away from Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare and Medicaid. With Ryan now on the presidential ticket, his budget proposal, which passed in the U.S. House in 2011 and earlier this year is getting renewed scrutiny and rightful questions about the impact his plan to privatize Medicare and slash funding for Medicaid would have on America’s seniors. 

So, rather than address those questions and talk openly about their plan to dismantle these vital health care programs — Ryan and other opponents of the Affordable Care Act decided to ramp up their attacks on the law, spreading (very scary sounding) lies that have been repeatedly revealed as such

Opponents of the law are counting on the fact that if you just repeat something enough, you can make it true. Which, unfortunately, in politics, is sometimes the case. But the truth matters — especially when we’re talking about protecting the health of our seniors and our ability to access affordable, quality care. 

So here’s the deal:

Obamacare: Keeps the “Care” in Medicare

Saves you money right now on prescription drugs

Obamacare closes the “Donut Hole” gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage that Rep. Paul Ryan voted under Pres. Bush in 2006 to create. Already, 260,000 PA seniors have saved an average of $660 on prescription drugs in the “donut hole” thanks to the new law. Some saved as much as $1000. Since Obamacare’s been in place, PA seniors have saved a total of $255,376,897 on their prescription drugs — that’s money going back into seniors’ pockets, that they can spend in the Main Street businesses in our communities instead of forking over to big drug companies.

Gives you new free preventive care benefits

In 2011, 1.5 million Pennsylvania seniors received free preventive services thanks to Obamacare. Under the new law, Original Medicare now covers important benefits like an annual flu shot, an annual wellness visit with your doctor, mammograms, colonoscopies, dementia screening, nutrition therapy to manage diabetes and kidney disease, and many more services with NO co-pay or cost-sharing. 

Roots out waste, fraud and abuse

Obamacare gets serious about saving taxpayer dollars by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse of federal health care programs. These new anti-fraud efforts include tougher penalties for people who steal from Medicare and more law enforcement to find criminals abusing the law and beneficiaries — and these efforts are paying off. In 2011, we saw the largest annual recovery of Medicare and Medicaid dollars in U.S. history. More than $4 billion stolen from federal health care programs was recovered in 2010 and returned to the Medicare Health Insurance Trust Fund. 

Rewards quality, patient-centered care

Obamacare makes sure your Medicare dollars are spent on care that’s going to make you well. Before the law, Medicare didn’t consider if providers were giving patients the best quality care when determining how they’d be paid. This meant that hospitals with a lot of incidents of patients getting infections like MRSA or being rushed out and then readmitted were paid the same as hospitals who took better care of patients. And doctors were paid by how many procedures they ran on you, rather than whether or not those procedures helped you get well. By putting new incentives in place to reward quality, patient-centered care, Obamacare encourages better care and saves money.

Extends Medicare’s life 8 years

Obamacare puts the savings generated by ending extra subsidies to private health insurance companies, rooting out waste, fraud and abuse and improving Medicare’s payment system directly into Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. Before the law, Medicare’s trustees expected the fund to be depleted by 2016, but because Obamacare better spends Medicare dollars on quality care and benefits rather than excessive subsidies to private insurers and waste, the law extends Medicare’s solvency until at least 2024. 

Ryancare: Ends Medicare As We Know It

Forces you to pay more for Rx drugs

Ryancare repeals Obamacare, which means it would re-open and make permanent the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap. This would increase costs by up to $6,000 annually per person by 2020. 

Takes away preventive care benefits

By repealing Obamacare, Ryancare also takes away the new, free preventive benefits for seniors on Medicare. This would mean that the 32 million American seniors who’ve already received better preventive care thanks to these new benefits would once again be subjected to co-pays and other costs, hurting their ability to catch health problems early and stay well.

Shifts more costs onto you by cutting what Medicare pays for your care

Under the Ryan Budget:

Over the first 7 years under Ryancare, Medicare will pay 23% less for you than it does today, if you were born after 1957; that is equivalent to a one-year cut of $130 billion in today’s program, or more than $2,800 for an average beneficiary. 

In the next 10 years under Ryancare, Medicare will pay 34% less for you than it does today; that is equivalent to more than a $4,000 cut for an average beneficiary today.

Health care won’t cost less — you’ll just be stuck paying more for it. This means that over time, you’ll have to pay more to keep the health plans and the doctors you like, or you’ll get fewer benefits.

Doubles your out-of-pocket health care costs

Ryancare isn’t cost-saving, it’s cost-shifting, onto you as a Medicare beneficiary. According to the Congressional Budget Office,  the Ryan Buget would cut federal Medicare spending for each new beneficiary by: 

$400 to $700 (between 6-11%) in 2023

$1,200 to $2,200 (14 – 23%) in 2030, and 

$5,900 to $8,000 (35 – 42%) in 2050 

Those are cuts to money spent on your benefits, which means that you’ll either have to double your out-of-pocket spending to get the health care you’ve been getting, or get less care. 

ABC News put together this handy chart, using data from the CBO Report looking at what seniors would pay under Ryancare vs. Obamacare:

Privatizes Medicare, putting you at the mercy of private insurance companies

Under the Ryan Budget, Medicare as a guaranteed benefit program would be eliminated in favor of a system that relies on coupons and private health insurance. Starting 10 years from now, in 2023, when you’d become eligible for Medicare, you would receive a coupon or voucher, to go out and buy private health insurance or traditional Medicare through a Medicare Exchange.

The amount of this coupon would be set by a capped formula that would not keep up with the rising costs of private health insurance. And if you choose a plan that costs more than the coupon allowed, you would be stuck with the bill.

This also means private health insurance companies try to attract younger, healthier and less expensive beneficiaries, leaving the oldest, sickest and costliest beneficiaries in traditional Medicare, which would drive up costs for the program and send it speeding toward bankruptcy. Then you’ll have no choice — just private health insurance, with no more guaranteed benefits and no protections against rising costs.

When you look at how radically different the plans are, it makes sense that opponents would say anything to distract from the pain their plan would inflict on seniors. Which brings us to this number:

$716 billion.

“Obama stole $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare!” This is opponents new line of attack — ugly, deceptive and flat-out wrong. It’s a lie, and if you hear folks in your community repeating it — you should tell them it’s a lie, and remind them of the differences in the plans we outlined above.

$716 billion is a real number, and it comes from a recent Congressional Budget Office report prepared for House Speaker John Boehner on what the financial impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act would be on our national deficit. (Spoiler alert: Repealing Obamacare would increase our national debt by $109 billion over the next 10 years). 

That report also found that if you repealed the Affordable Care Act, Medicare spending would increase by $716 billion over the 2013 – 2022 period. Before we look at how they manipulated that number to scare folks, let’s get a few things straight:

Medicare spending includes money that is spent on A LOT of things that have nothing to do with the quality of your care, your benefits or your coverage. 

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, Medicare was spending billions of dollars a year on waste, fraud and abuse. Medicare was spending $156 billion a year on extra subsidies to private health insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare was also blindly spending billions of dollars to pay providers — hospitals, care facilities and doctors — without looking at whether or not those providers were giving you, the patient, the best quality care. And Medicare was spending your dollars — that could be more wisely spent to strengthen benefits — to keep the most affluent Medicare beneficiaries paying the same Part B premiums as folks getting by on Social Security alone.

So when opponents use that $716 billion figure, they are saying it would be a good thing to spend your Medicare dollars to give extra subsidies to private health insurance companies, to turn a blind eye to whether providers are giving you quality care, and to give a tax break to the most wealthy Medicare beneficiaries — at the expense of Medicare’s long-term solvency. If they got their way, and chose to use your Medicare dollars on waste, fraud, abuse, overpayments to insurance companies and to blindly pay for bad care, they would cause a financial crisis in Medicare and put it on track to become insolvent in just 4 years — in 2016. 

That’s what makes this new lying line of attack so outrageous. There is too much on the line to be manipulated by misinformation. Medicare has been the foundation of middle class security since Democrats like Harry Truman fought to create it in 1965, and if we let opponents muddy the waters with misinformation, we are clearing a path for them to dismantle not only Medicare, but Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. 

If you remember one thing in this post, let it be this: 

We all know the difference between paying more and getting more. Under Obamacare, seniors get more: more prescription drug savings, more benefits, more secure coverage and more peace of mind, knowing that Medicare is on more financially solid ground. 

Under Ryancare, seniors pay more: seniors will pay more for prescriptions, more in premiums, more to find and keep coverage, and more just to pad the profits of private health insurance companies — and for what benefit? For the benefit of the very rich, who will see more tax breaks, and for the benefit of big insurance companies who will gladly step into the void when Medicare as we know it has been destroyed.