Seniors Should Carefully Review New Medicare Mailer

By Newt Gingrich and Nancy Desmond

As weeks turned to months during the Great Debate over what to do about health care this past year, President Obama made one solemn pledge to the nation and its seniors.

He said health care would not add one dime to the deficit. And if all of us liked our doctor, we would get to keep our doctor.

Fast forward almost 90 days after the passage of Obamacare and the attitude of most Americans to that pledge is: “prove it.”

In the past two weeks, the Obama Administration has been trying to stem the tide of skepticism toward its health care law with a new mailer sent directly to the nation’s seniors entitled: “Medicare and the New Health Care Law –What it Means for You.”

The problem is, for anyone who has paid attention during the past 12 months, the message about the biggest government expansion into healthcare in our lifetime just doesn’t add up.

Let’s contrast fact from fiction and the language used in the new flier:

  • “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 of care.” Fact: Most Americans will pay higher insurance premiums, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And more than 10 million seniors will see reduced benefits under their private Medicare Advantage plans. Overall quality will decline as fewer doctors take on Medicare patients.
  • Your guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t change – whether you get them through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.” Fact: Medicare Advantage, a private option in Medicare, will be cut by $136 billion. On April 22, the Chief Actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that half of all seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage would lose their coverage under the new healthcare bill by 2017. The guarantee that benefits won’t change isn’t a guarantee at all for millions of seniors who prefer using private insurance companies that provide their Medicare coverage.
  • “Your choice of doctors will be preserved.” Fact: Cuts to Medicare will total nearly $500 billion, hitting hospitals, home health providers, physicians and more. Doctors throughout the country have seen their Medicare payments reduced in recent years and expect more cuts in the future because of Obamacare. A February survey by three national neurosurgeons groups, for example, showed that 50 percent of neurosurgeons were reducing the number of Medicare patients they were accepting into their practice. The Mayo Clinic in Arizona also has started turning away Medicare patients. Other physicians are also following suit. How is this preserving a senior’s choice of doctors?
  • “If you’re hospitalized, the new law also helps you return home successfully and avoid going back – by helping to coordinate your care and connecting you to services and supports in your community.” Fact: This is traditionally known as “home health care” – a program that helps treat patients at home for a short period. But in the Obamacare plan, home health care will also be cut by $40 billion. Another contradiction in terms.

Last fall, the federal government launched an investigation into Humana for sending letters to seniors who were customers of the Medicare Advantage program during the healthcare debate. It urged them to contact their Congressman or Senator because of the then-proposed cuts to the program. Under threat of shutting down the insurance company’s contract with Medicare, Humana was told to stop sending such information out to its customers.

Yet today, we have the federal government offering its spin and fabrication on Obamacare with no one holding it accountable. It is trying to convince seniors that despite almost half a trillion dollars in cuts, the new law “preserves and strengthens Medicare.” Precious tax dollars are being spent on a public relations campaign to try to convince seniors that Obamacare will keep “Medicare strong and solvent.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Record numbers of baby boomers will start retiring this year and draw Social Security benefits and sign up for Medicare. They are smart enough to understand that Obamacare is not a good deal for their golden years. A four-page brochure will not change their minds either. It will take more for this Administration to “prove it” than a glossy, four-page pamphlet.

Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation. Desmond is the CEO of the Center.