New Medicare brochures propaganda?

posted at 10:12 am on May 26, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Republicans in Congress are raising red flags over the latest Medicare newsletter/brochure and its sales pitch on ObamaCare.  The Daily Caller reports that the newly released brochure misrepresents parts of ObamaCare and leaves out information that would seem to be just as important to Medicare beneficiaries as the data included by CMS and Kathleen Sebelius.  Republicans are blasting it as pro-administration propaganda:

Republican leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor Tuesday to call the flyer an “outrage.” A copy of the brochure can be viewed here.

He said the leaflet from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (part of the Department Health and Human Services) tells seniors what the health care bill means for them, but much of it directly contradicts what the Obama administration’s own experts have said about the law. “This is nothing short of government propaganda, paid for by the taxpayer,” McConnell said.

“The administration’s own actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says seniors who use Medicare Advantage will lose benefits as a result of this bill. Yet the flyer they’re putting out says nothing about this. Instead, it implies nothing will change for these seniors,” he said.

McConnell said “perhaps most egregious is the claim that a bill which cuts Medicare by half a trillion dollars will actually ‘preserve and strengthen’ Medicare.”

CMS responded by saying that they needed to publish the brochure in order to keep Medicare patients from falling victim to scamsters.  That’s part of their mission, and it’s true that changes in the law cause creeps to come out of the woodwork to defraud seniors and the government.  The brochure’s first page makes that intent clear, but prefaces it with a healthy dose of … cheeriness (emphases mine):

The Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama this year will provide you and your family greater savings and increased quality health care. It will also ensure accountability throughout the health care system so that you, your family, and your doctor—not insurance companies—have greater control over your care.

These are needed improvements that will keep Medicare strong and solvent. Your guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t change—whether you get them through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Instead, you will see new benefits and cost savings, and an increased focus on quality to ensure that you get the care you need.

This brochure provides you with accurate information about the new services and benefits to help you and your family now and in the future.

Later, the brochure plays a more explicit bait-and-switch regarding the above claim about Medicare Advantage:

If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan, you will still receive guaranteed Medicare benefits.

That’s very misleading.  Medicare Advantage patients always did have guaranteed Medicare benefits; those are the basic benefits of Medicare.  MA added benefits by having patients buy additional insurance through private Medicare partners, which then handled both Medicare and their own benefits packages.  The reduction of $500 billion in Medicare Advantage funding will mean fewer MA partners, reductions in benefits, and increases in costs for supplemental insurance to cover services which Medicare does not cover.  The end result for MA patients will be higher costs (thanks to the end of PPO-style co-pays instead of percentage co-pays) and less coverage.

This brochure makes it sound as though nothing will change for MA patients, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Instead of informing MA patients of the changes coming, it leaves them completely unprepared for the big bills from either supplemental insurers or from providers who will start billing patients directly instead of the MA supplemental insurer.  It also doesn’t mention the reduction in providers that patients will discover when their MA policies suddenly disappear, and the provider networks along with them.

The rest of the brochure is even worse, with a section on how ObamaCare will help the families of Medicare patients — which have no relation at all to Medicare in most instances.  For instance, it brags about forcing insurers to keep adults on their parents’ policies until age 26.  Does that include Medicare?  Er, no.

This political advertisement should be immediately recalled, or failing that, charged in its entirety to the DNC or Organizing for America.


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