Democratic memo instructs staffers to mislead voters and media on “doctor fix”; Update: It’s a hoax, say Dems

posted at 1:37 pm on March 19, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, a source in Washington DC sent me a scan of a memo that Democratic leadership has passed to staffers on the Hill instructing them how to handle the media and their bosses in the next 72 hours on ObamaCare.  I confirmed it with another source on Capitol Hill a few minutes ago.  The memo warns staffers to avoid discussing the mechanisms within the CBO analysis in order to mislead voters on their intentions for the “doctor fix” and how it will “undermine the reforms’ budget neutrality.”

I won’t transcribe it all (readers can download it here to read it in full), but I’ll highlight the relevant passage:

Second, most health staff are already aware that our health proposal does not contain a “doc fix.”  Some Republicans have repeated CBO’s November 18th letter that says “the sustainable growth rate (SGR) mechanism governing Medicare’s payments to physicians has been frequently modified (either through legislative or administrative action) to avoid reductions in those payments, and legislation to do so again is currently under consideration in Congress.”  The inclusion of a full SGR repeal would undermine the reform’s budget neutrality.  So, again, do not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of CBO scores and textual narrative.  Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered.

As most health staff knows, Leadership and the White House are working with the AMA to rally physicians support for a full SGR repeal later this spring.  However, both health and communications staff should understand that we do not want that policy discussed at this time, lest I [sic] complicate the last critical push for health reform.

While I was tracking down the sourcing on this, Politico’s Chris Frates already reported on it:

Democrats are planning to introduce legislation later this spring that would permanently repeal annual Medicare cuts to doctors, but are warning lawmakers not to talk about it for fear that it will complicate their push to pass comprehensive health reform. The plans undercut the party’s message that reform lowers the deficit, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.

Democrats removed the so-called doc fix from the reform legislation last year because its $371-billion price tag would have made it impossible for Democrats to claim that their bill reduces the deficit. Republicans have argued for months that by stripping the doc fix from the bill, Democrats were playing a shell game.

Basically, this is an admission that the numbers the Democrats submitted to the CBO were entirely false, and that they plan to make this bill a deficit expander in the spring.  It’s a breathtaking admission of deceit and hypocrisy — and its exposure should have the media asking more questions about that CBO scoring and putting Democrats in the hot seat over it.

Update (AP): Memo? What memo?

“We have checked with every Democratic office, no one has ever seen it. It did not come out of a Democratic office,” the aide said, adding that media outlets printing the memo have not checked with leadership offices if the memo is authentic. A second Democratic leadership aide confirmed the memo was not sent by the Democrats. A third Democratic aide also said the memo is fake, citing the “draft” stamp and saying no one uses such things.

“If this were a Democratic communications person who wrote this, they should be fired, because this looks like Republican talking points,” the third Democratic aide told TPMDC.

The memo alleging the changes commonly known as a “doc fix” would be politically damaging to Democrats, who already are holding together a fragile coalition to get the needed 216 votes Sunday.

Update (Ed): When Politico went live with this article, I had confirmed with two people I know on the Hill that they had seen this being passed around.  Did it come from Democrats, or from Republicans?  I can’t answer that, but I did confirm with two sources that it exists.


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