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Health Insurance Reform Daily Mythbuster: Republicans and Medicare

Health insurance reform opponents continue to spread myths about America's Affordable Health Choices Act, including the notion that Republicans are fighting against health insurance reform to protect seniors from Medicare changes. In fact, the House bill improves care and benefits under Medicare and extends Medicare's solvency.  But in the hypocrisy file: over the years, Congressional Republicans have made no attempt to hide their attempts to gut Medicare - from peddling privatization to ramming through a flawed prescription drug benefit written for and by the drug industry. As Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday:

“They [Congressional Republicans] were nowhere to be heard in the '80s and '90s when we were trying to protect Medicare…I find it absolutely fascinating these guys who wanted to cut Medicare before, these guys who didn't like it in the first place, are now out there telling you that this is the best thing that ever happened since sliced bread.” [The Hill, 9/23/09]

MYTH: Congressional Republicans are trying to kill health insurance reform to protect seniors and Medicare. 

FACT:  In April, 80 percent of House Republicans voted for Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican Budget substitute amendment, which would have essentially ended Medicare as we know it by turning it into a fixed voucher system where seniors would be forced to find health insurance on the private market.

“For their part, House Republicans are offering an alternative that eventually would end Medicare as it is presently known.” [AP, 4/1/09]

“Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's pledge this week to 'protect Medicare' might have been more convincing had it not come five months after nearly four-fifths of House Republicans voted to literally end the program as we know it for all Americans younger than 55.” [National Journal, 8/28/09]

FACT:  Nothing in this bill would reduce Medicare benefits to seniors.  In fact, the bill would make improvements in Medicare benefits, lower costs, and preserve choice for America's seniors while at the same time achieving new efficiencies in Medicare; expanding authority to fight waste, fraud and abuse; and eliminating the wasteful Medicare Advantage subsidies to private insurance companies--money that can and should go back to seniors' care.

In fact, the $540 billion in Medicare savings over 10 years in the House bill is a gross number. That figure does not take into account the bill's new spending of $304 billion to improve Medicare benefits and health care for seniors, including the following:

  • Lowers drug costs by gradually closing the “donut hole” for prescription drug reimbursement;
  • Preserves choice of doctors by eliminating a 20 percent cut in doctor reimbursements;
  • Lowers costs by eliminating copayments for preventive services;
  • Improves low-income subsidy programs, including under the part D program, to help ensure Medicare is affordable for those with low and modest incomes;
  • Computerizes medical records so seniors won't have to take the same test over and over or relay their entire medical history every time they see a new provider;
  • Expands the medical workforce so seniors will have more doctors to choose from and an easier time getting an appointment;
  • Develops new practices to improve quality such as the new Center for Quality Improvement that will identify best practices are distributed widely; and
  • Lengthens the solvency of Medicare by five years. 

Learn more about how the House bill will strengthen Medicare and improve the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Learn more about myths about seniors spread by opponents of health reform.