Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fact Check: Wyoming Sen. Barrasso's statement on health care reform

The Wyoming Democratic Party did a little research and came up with a fact check on some health care reform comments by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, M.D. (hope he's a better doctor than researcher):

Brianna Jones, WyoDems communications director: Please see below for a fact check of the claims made by Senator Barrasso on the floor of the Senate just now on how the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act would affect Medicare:

Sen. Barrasso: “When you look at the details of this bill, this is going to cut almost $500 billion. $500 Billion from our seniors who depend on Medicare for their health care.” [Barrasso Floor Speech, 11/20/09]


AARP: Statement That Reform Would Cut Medicare Benefits Is “Misleading And Alarmist,” And “The Proposed Medicare Savings Do Not Limit Benefits, They Do Not Impose Rationing.” The Wall Street Journal reported that, “[t]he Republican Party issued a new salvo in the health debate Monday with a ‘seniors' health care bill of rights’ that opposed any moves to trim Medicare spending or limit end-of-life care to seniors. Intended as a political shot at President Barack Obama, the Republican National Committee manifesto marks a remarkable turnaround for a party that had once fought to trim the health program for the elderly and disabled, which last year cost taxpayers over $330 billion…The country's largest lobbying group for seniors, AARP, said it welcomed the RNC's commitment to protect Medicare. But the group, which supports efforts to overhaul the health-care system, also dismissed the RNC statement as misleading and alarmist. ‘Change by itself is anxiety producing, but as we have analyzed the various bills [before Congress], the proposed Medicare savings do not limit benefits, they do not impose rationing and they do not put the government between patients and their doctors,’ said John Rother, AARP's executive vice president.” [Wall Street Journal, 8/25/09]

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]

Medicare Advantage Health Economist: 86 Percent Of Extra MA Payments Went To Profits, Only 14 Percent Went To Extra Benefits – “Cuts To MA Should Be A No Brainer.” Health Economist Austin Frakt, a professor at Boston University, has studied Medicare Advantage plans extensively and wrote on his blog about his findings: “Payment to MA plans has gone way up since 2003. Did the payment increase largely benefit beneficiaries or not? This is a current political and policy debate, about which much has been written in the media (both traditional and blogospheric). It turns out the answer is known and quantifiable. My work (with Steve Pizer and Roger Feldman) shows that for each additional dollar spent by the federal government (taxpayers) on the program since 2003, just $0.14 of it can be attributed to additional value (consumer surplus) to beneficiaries (see also: findings brief). What do we make of the other $0.86? That goes to the insurance companies but doesn’t come out “the other end” in the form of value to beneficiaries. In part it is accounted for by the costs of the additional benefits and in part it is captured as additional insurer profit. So, do higher MA payments produce little value to beneficiaries, as Obama claims, or are the benefits they fund important to maintain, as Republicans would have us believe? The balance of the evidence is on Obama’s side. In fact, it is a landslide: for each dollar spent, 14% of the value reaches beneficiaries and 86% of it goes elsewhere (profit or cost). Cuts to MA should be a no brainer.” [Incidental Economist - Austin Frakt, 9/28/09]


CBO On Senate Bill: Medicare Savings Amount To $491 Billion. In its estimate of the Senate reform bill, CBO wrote: “Other components of the legislation would alter spending under Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs…In total, CBO estimates that enacting those provisions would reduce direct spending by $491 billion over the 2010-2019 period.” [Congressional Budget Office, 11/18/09]

Senate Bill Includes $500 Shrinkage Of Medicare Prescription Drug Donut Hole In 2010. Politico Live Pulse reported that, “[i]n what can be viewed as an election-year sweetener for senior citizens, the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug program would shrink by $500 in 2010 only under the Senate bill. A Senate leadership aide described it as a ‘downpayment’ on closing the donut hole. ‘Our goal is to get it closer to the House bill,’ which would eliminate the coverage gap over the next decade, the aide said.” [Politico Live Pulse, 11/18/09]

AARP CEO: House Bill “Includes Critical Priorities For Seniors…Provides And Strengthens Medicare For Today’s Seniors And Future Generations.” The Hill reported on AARP’s endorsement of House Democratic health reform. AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said, “[t]his bill includes critical priorities for seniors – critical – ensures quality, affordable health coverage options for all Americans, provides and strengthens Medicare for today’s seniors and future generations and puts us on a path to improving our long-term health system.” [The Hill, 11/5/09]

New York Times: Reform Will Enhance Drug Coverage, Reduce Premiums, and Help Keep Medicare Solvent. “Far from harming elderly Americans, the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries — by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.” [New York Times, Editorial, 9/27/09]

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