Earlier today on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Senator Kyl repeated debunked claims about the health insurance reform legislation’s impact of Medicare, Medicare Advantage and taxes.  See fact check below:

RHETORIC: Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) Claimed that “Medicare Benefits Are Going To Be Cut,” That Medicare Advantage Benefits Would Be Reduced, and That The Bill Would Raise Taxes. Appearing on the Senate floor, Senator Kyl said, “the facts are that Medicare benefits are going to be cut.” Kyl continued, “[t]he Congressional Budget Office says that the Medicare advantage benefits are going to be reduced from a monthly actuarial value of $135 down to $49 a month. Saying there is going to be a reduction in the benefits for those who have the private Medicare – Medicare Advantage policies.” Kyl went on to say, “I really don’t believe that this bill can be sold on its merits, and I think that’s another reason why we have to hurry up and do it before the public really figures out what’s in it.  The public opposes this bill not for the reasons imagined” by Democratic colleagues “but because it will cut Medicare benefits, it really will raise taxes, put the government in charge of too much.  It will cost trillions of dollars.  And it will result in the delay and denial of care.  That’s why the majority of Americans want us to start over and address the problems on a step-by-step basis.” [Senate Floor Speech, 12/20/09]

REALITY: MEDICARE SAVINGS DO NOT CUT BENEFITS, THEY STRENGTHEN MEDICARE

AARP Endorsed Senate Health Care Legislation And Said It “Strengthens Medicare For Current And Future Generations.” “With your commitment to closing the doughnut hole in conference, consistent with the President’s pledge, and the many positive features referenced above, AARP is pleased to support your efforts to obtain cloture, and urges timely passage of this legislation by the Senate. We look forward to working with you in conference to finalize health care reform legislation that strengthens Medicare for current and future generations, and which ensures that all Americans can obtain affordable coverage—particularly those aged 50 to 64—who face the most difficulty securing coverage they can afford in the individual and small group markets.” [AARP letter to Sen. Harry Reid, 12/14/09]

CMS Report: Senate Health Care Bill Extends The Life Of The Medicare Trust Fund By 9 Years. According to a recently released CMS report, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by 9 years – significantly longer than any proposal in recent years. [CMS Report, 12/10/09]

AARP CEO: The [Senate Health Care] Legislation Does Not Reduce Any Guaranteed Medicare Benefits.” “But on Wednesday afternoon, the AARP joined other senior groups to oppose the GOP amendment, offered by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). ‘The legislation before the Senate properly focuses on provider reimbursement reforms to achieve these important policy objectives,’ AARP CEO Addison Barry Rand wrote in a letter to Reid. ‘Most importantly, the legislation does not reduce any guaranteed Medicare benefits.’” [Washington Post, 12/2/09]

FactCheck.org: “We Never Have Said That Seniors Would Suffer ‘Massive Cuts To Medicare Benefits’ Under [Health Reform Legislation], And In Fact Have Done Our Best To Debunk [Those] Claims.” FactCheck.org wrote: “We never have said that seniors would suffer ‘massive cuts to Medicare benefits’ under the pending House or Senate overhaul bills, and in fact have done our best to debunk claims to that effect.” [FactCheck.org, 11/3/09]

AARP Applauded The Senate For Bill: “Makes Progress Towards Achieving Meaningful Relief For Millions Of Older Americans…Makes Improvements To The Medicare Program.” AARP said in a press release: “We applaud the Senate for merging the Finance and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees’ bills and taking another important step toward fixing what’s wrong with our health care system. Under the leadership of Majority Leader Reid and Senators Baucus, Harkin and Dodd, the legislation announced today makes progress toward achieving meaningful relief for millions of older Americans who still face challenges accessing affordable, quality health care services. The new Senate bill makes improvements to the Medicare program by creating a new annual wellness benefit, providing free preventive benefits, and—most notably for AARP members—reducing drug costs for seniors who fall into the dreaded Medicare doughnut hole, a costly gap in prescription drug coverage.” [AARP, 11/18/09]

AARP Warned Seniors Against “Myths and Scare Tactics” In Health Reform Debate, Said “None Of The Health Care Reform Proposals Being Considered By Congress Would Cut Medicare Benefits.” AARP wrote in a myth-vs.-fact health reform website that, “There are special interest groups trying to block progress on health care reform by using myths and scare tactics. Like the notion that health care reform would ration your care, hurt Medicare or be a government takeover. Actually, these are false statements.” AARP concluded about the Medicare claim that, “[n]one of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.” [AARP, Myths Vs. Facts]

Sen. Roberts (R-KS) Admitted That “It Is Technically Accurate” for Democrats to Claim That “This Bill Doesn’t Cut Medicare Benefits,” But Claimed Providers Would Not Be Able To Survive Cuts. On the Senate floor, Sen. Roberts said: “I keep hearing my colleagues, however, on the other side of the aisle insisting that they’re half trillion dollar cut to all Medicare – here’s the quote – ‘won’t affect the benefits.’ Please stop that. That is the most disingenuous smoke screen in this whole debate. It may be true. It may be true that this bill does not explicitly cut benefits…I want every senior to know that while maybe it is technically accurate again for my friends across the aisle to claim that this bill doesn’t cut Medicare benefits there is no way – no way that you can slash a half a trillion dollars from payments to providers without affecting their ability to keep their door open. Especially in rural and small-town America…So, yes, in fact, this bill will effectively cut benefits. Again, get rid of the smoke screen. And this just doesn’t apply to the home health care benefit.” [Roberts Floor Speech, 12/4/09]

  • Hospitals Group Refuted CMS Actuary Report: “Hospitals Always Will Stand By Senior Citizens. This Summer, Hospitals Agreed To Contribute Substantial Medicare Savings Are Part Of Our Shared Sacrifice To Reform Health Care.” Politico Live Pulse reported: “The following statement was released today by Chip Kahn, President of the Federation of American Hospitals: Hospitals’ commitment to our mission of serving the health care needs of seniors in communities across America is steadfast. A memorandum recently issued by the CMS Actuary analyzing the effects of “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009” (H.R. 3962) concludes that some providers may end their participation in the Medicare program. Hospitals always will stand by senior citizens. This summer, hospitals agreed to contribute substantial Medicare savings as part of our shared sacrifice to reform health care and achieve near universal coverage for all Americans. We are pleased with the legislative progress as well as the movement towards market-based solutions. And we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to enact legislation that will enable hospitals to continue to provide our patients, including seniors, with ready access to the highest quality health care possible.” [Politico Live Pulse, 11/16/09]

REALITY: HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM WILL CLOSE THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT DONUT HOLE AND ELIMINATE CO-PAYS ON PREVENTATIVE SERVICES FOR SENIORS

AARP Endorsed Senate Health Care Legislation Because It Will Close The Prescription Drug Donut Hole. “With your commitment to closing the doughnut hole in conference, consistent with the President’s pledge, and the many positive features referenced above, AARP is pleased to support your efforts to obtain cloture, and urges timely passage of this legislation by the Senate. We look forward to working with you in conference to finalize health care reform legislation that strengthens Medicare for current and future generations, and which ensures that all Americans can obtain affordable coverage—particularly those aged 50 to 64—who face the most difficulty securing coverage they can afford in the individual and small group markets.” [AARP letter to Sen. Harry Reid, 12/14/09]

Legislation Includes the CLASS Act, Provides the Elderly at Least $50 a Day for Long-Term Care, Allows Elderly to “Stay at Home if They Want.” “The legislation that top Senate Democrat Harry Reid unveiled Wednesday night includes a bill that Kennedy had championed for years. Known as the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act, it would give the elderly at least $50 a day for long term care and allow them to stay at home if they want.” [“Political Intelligence,” Boston Globe, 11/19/09]

AARP: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “Makes Progress Towards Achieving Meaningful Relief for Millions Of Older Americans” and “Makes Improvements to the Medicare Program.” In a press release, the AARP said, “The new Senate bill makes improvements to the Medicare program by creating a new annual wellness benefit, providing free preventive benefits, and—most notably for AARP members—reducing drug costs for seniors who fall into the dreaded Medicare doughnut hole, a costly gap in prescription drug coverage.” [AARP, 11/18/09]

REPUBLICANS ARE DEFENDING WASTEFUL SUBSIDIES TO HEALTH INSURERS TO MEDICARE ADVANTAGE THAT PROVIDE PERKS LIKE FREE GYM MEMBERSHIPS

Medicare Advantage Provides Extra Perks, Like Free Gym Memberships, That Are Subsidized By The Government And The High Costs Of The Plans Are Passed On To Seniors. “Seniors in this Sun Belt retirement haven and across the country revel in the free perks that private insurance companies bundle with legally mandated benefits to entice people 65 and older to forgo traditional Medicare and sign up for private Medicare Advantage policies. The trouble is, the extra benefits are not exactly free; they are subsidized by the government. And some of the plans pass their costs on to seniors, who pay higher co-pays and additional fees to get care. … In a health-care debate defined by big numbers and confusing details, the prospect of losing benefits such as a free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers program is tangible, and it has spooked some seniors, who are the nation’s most reliable voters and have been most skeptical about reform.” [Washington Post, 10/15/09]

GOP Opposition To Medicare Advantage Competitive Bidding Is Interesting: “Republicans Have Mounted A Ferocious Defense Of The Market’s Right To Continue Burning Through Taxpayer Dollars.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein commented on Republican anger at the prospect of competitive bidding to lower overpayments to Medicare Advantage programs: “[i]t is also an interesting moment of insight into the conservative philosophy on these matters. The problem with government programs, we’re often told, is that they are expensive and wasteful, and the private market could do better. But faced with an instance where the government program proved relatively lean and efficient, and the private market expensive and wasteful, Republicans have mounted a ferocious defense of the market’s right to continue burning through taxpayer dollars.” [Washington Post – Ezra Klein, 9/24/09]

REPUBLICANS ARE CRITICIZING A PLAN TO FORCE INSURERS TO COMPETE…

Health Insurance Reform Would Reduce The Difference In Costs Between Medicare And Medicare Advantage Through A Competitive Bidding System. “Federal subsidies to private Medicare plans average about 14 percent higher than those involved in fee-for-service coverage. The health care bills pending in Congress would reduce or eliminate the difference in part by introducing a competitive bidding system to pay the plans. ‘Health insurance reform will strengthen Medicare for seniors, not diminish it,’ said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin. ‘Even under the competitive bidding proposal in the legislation, Medicare Advantage plans will still be paid more than traditional Medicare plans. Yes, they’ll need to compete, and they’ll need to be more efficient, but they’ll still have more money to work with than traditional Medicare.’” [AP, 9/22/09]

AARP Lead Lobbyist On Medicare Advantage Competitive Bidding: “We Think The Proposals Actually Will Improve Access And Quality,” Not Cut Benefits. The Boston Globe reported that, “[t]he $120 billion cut to Medicare Advantage is part of spending reductions in Medicare totaling $460 billion to $540 billion over 10 years that have been proposed by Democrats. The cuts would fall on the government reimbursement rates for a broad variety of providers such as hospitals and home health agencies, which could probably absorb them without affecting the services elderly Americans receive, many specialists said in interviews. Though some industry groups complain the spending reductions are too severe, adjustments could be made if problems arose because they would be phased in gradually. Most are aimed at making the programs more efficient. ‘We think the proposals actually will improve access and quality,’ John Rother, a leading lobbyist for the AARP, the large lobbying organization for senior citizens, said in an e-mail.” [Boston Globe, 9/24/09]

REALITY: AMERICANS WILL SEE A NET TAX CUT UNDER REFORM

JCT: Cadillac Plan Tax Will Affect Only 3% Of Premiums In 2013; Senate Plan Included Special Protections To Plans Held By Workers In High-Risk Professions, Like Police And Firefighters, And Those Over 55. Jason Furman wrote on the White House Blog: “the excise tax levied on insurance companies for high-premium plans, the so-called “Cadillac tax,” will affect only a small portion of the very highest cost health plans – a total of 3% of premiums in 2013. The vast majority of health plans fall below the thresholds set in the Senate plan and would be completely unaffected by the provision. And those that are above the threshold would only face an excise tax on the generally small portion of the plan that exceeds the threshold. As a result, based on analyses by the Joint Committee on Taxation, only about 3% of premiums will be affected by this provision in 2013. In addition, the Senate plan provides special protections to plans held by workers in high-risk professions – like police and firefighters – as well as by those over 55.” [White House, 12/16/09]

JCT: Senate Bill Will Provide Nearly $450 Billion In Individual Income Tax Cuts. Jason Furman wrote on the White House Blog: “First, the health insurance reform bill being considered in the Senate does not raise taxes on families making less than $250,000 – in fact it is a substantial net tax cut for American families. The bill being considered represents a substantial net tax cut for middle-income families. According to the independent Joint Committee on Taxation, the bill will provide nearly $450 billion in individual income tax cuts over the next 10 years.” [White House, 12/16/09]

Based On CBO Estimates, Under Senate Bill, Individuals Would Save From $200 To $2,500; Families Would Save $500 To $7,500 – “In Addition To The More Generous Benefits That These Groups Will Receive Through The [Health Insurance] Exchange.” Jonathan Gruber, MIT professor of economics and a health economics specialist wrote on the updated CBO estimates of the Senate health reform legislation: “I find that the savings are large for both singles and families, and that they are particularly large for the lowest income families that qualify for premium credits under the Senate Bill but would be left to face the full high non-group premium without legislation. In particular, I find that the single individual would save over $2,500 at low incomes (175% of poverty), and would save $200 even at higher incomes (425% of poverty or higher). For families, the savings are much larger, ranging from nearly $7,500 for low-income families (at 175% of poverty) to $500 for higher incomes (425% of poverty of higher). It is worth noting that these savings are all in addition to the more generous benefits that these groups will receive through the exchange compared to the non-group market.” [Gruber, 11/27/09]