Romney/Ryan’s Spectacularly Misleading ‘Obama Stole $700 Billion From Medicare’ Claim
At the forefront of the Romney/Ryan ticket’s defense of the Ryan Budget’s Medicare cuts is an extremely misleading claim about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Medicare.
First here’s the claim –
By Romney, in his current stump speech:
‘Unlike the current president who has cut Medicare funding by $700 billion, we will preserve and protect Medicare and Social Security.’
By Romney, in his first joint interview with Ryan:
‘There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare.’
By RNC Chairman Reice Preibus on Meet the Press:
‘This president stole, he didn’t cut Medicare, he stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it’s Barack Obama. He’s the one that’s destroying Medicare.’
This same line of attack was used during the 2010 midterm elections by many GOP congressional candidates, only back then the figure cited was usually $500 billion. The updated $716 billion dollar figure comes from a late July CBO evaluation of the impact of repealing the ACA:
The ACA also includes a number of other provisions related to health care that are estimated to reduce net federal outlays (primarily for Medicare). By repealing those provisions, H.R. 6079 would increase other direct spending in the next decade by an estimated $711 billion.
Effects on Spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and Other Programs
Many of the other provisions that would be repealed by enacting H.R. 6079 affect spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs. The ACA made numerous changes to payment rates and payment rules in those programs, established a voluntary federal program for long-term care insurance through the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) provisions, and made certain other changes to federal health programs. In total, CBO estimates that repealing those provisions would increase net federal spending by $711 billion over the 2013–2022 period.
Spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013–2022 period.
So why is the claim misleading? For a number of reasons.
First the entire basis for the existence of this talking point is that they’re intentionally implying a cut in Medicare benefits. The ACA actually achieved these savings by attacking fraud and by reductions in the growth of payments to healthcare providers (which they mostly signed on to) – not to beneficiaries. There is no reduction in Medicare benefits, in fact some of the savings were reinvested in greater benefits for seniors, including no cost preventative care, and closing the Medicare Part D prescription drug ‘donut hole’.
Here’s an ABC News factcheck on the claim from June:
So does it ‘cut’ Medicare by $500 billion?
Medicare spending will continue to grow, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but ACA will slow that growth. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Health Foundation over the next 10 years, the federal government will devote about $500 billion less to Medicare than it would have without ACA.
CMS and the Kaiser Family Foundation tell ABC News that there will be no benefit cuts to Medicare. They say instead of Medicare’s being cut, there will be much more spending at the end of a 10-year window, but it does slow the rate of that growth. This is all unless Congress makes drastic changes to Medicare, for example passing House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan.
CMS says—and Kaiser agrees—that spending will be reduced by getting rid of fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies. It sends a message to those insurance companies: Operate more efficiently.
And instead of cuts, the CMS says they will be able to fund new benefits, including free preventive care and broader prescription coverage, including closing the ‘doughnut hole’ affecting seniors.
And a Boston Globe write-up on the issue from today:
None of these reductions were financed by cuts to Medicare enrollees’ eligibility or benefits; benefits were improved in the ACA. Cuts were focused on hospitals, health insurers, home health, and other providers. Except for insurers, all the affected groups publicly supported the reductions to help finance the ACA’s expansion in health insurance to about 32 million uninsured Americans.
A second reason the ‘Obama’s robbing Medicare’ claim is ridiculous is that the Ryan Budgets, which Romney has endorsed and that the House GOP passed twice since 2010, include the savings from the ACA’s Medicare growth slowing provisions. So if you hold Romney to his and Reice Preibus’ recent rhetoric, does that mean you might say that they want to ‘rob’ $716 billion from Medicare to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy?
Here’s a NYT article that covers that bit of hypocrisy:
‘Obamacare cuts Medicare — cuts Medicare — by approximately $500 billion,’ Mr. Romney has told audiences.
That is a reprise of Republicans’ mantra of the 2010 midterm elections, which gave them big gains at both the state and federal levels and a majority in the House. Yet the message conflicts not only with their past complaint that Democrats opposed reining in Medicare spending, but also with the fact that House Republicans have voted twice since 2010 for the same 10-year, $500 billion savings in supporting Mr. Ryan’s annual budgets.
In their attacks, Republicans have said in speeches and in television advertisements that the Democrats’ projected $500 billion in Medicare savings will ‘strip,’ ‘gut,’ ‘rob’ or ‘raid’ older people’s benefits.
Finally, as this is a defense against attacks on the Ryan Budgets, it’s worth noting what real Medicare benefit cuts look like. From an AP fact-check on dubious Romney/Ryan claims:
Ryan’s reputation as a fiscal conservative is built on a budget plan that would overhaul the Medicare program and introduce a voucher-like plan that future retirees could use to buy private health insurance. Whether that results in a better or worse situation for Medicare recipients is a matter of debate. But under Ryan’s plan, traditional Medicare would no longer be the health insurance mainstay, just one of many competing options.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the Ryan plan — which Romney endorsed in broad strokes in the past — would slow the increases in money for seniors. A typical 66-year-old would receive about 35 percent more than last year — $7,400 in 2011 dollars. Under current law, that person would probably receive at least 56 percent more in 2030, and quite possibly 75 percent more — $9,600 in 2011 dollars.