End Medicare myths


POSTED: Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Much of the shouting at town-hall meetings during the current congressional recess comes from seniors who are concerned about budget cuts to Medicare. Their concern is based on misinformation, and Gov. Linda Lingle added to their fear this week in a media conference call. President Barack Obama set her and others straight yesterday and the governor should back away from her unfounded allegations.

Joining Govs. Sonny Perdue of Georgia and Haley Barbour in Mississippi in a conference call with reporters arranged by the Republican Governors Association, Lingle defended the inflammatory behavior of people attending town-hall meetings with members of Congress.

“;I think you see a heightened emotion and passion and, you say anger, because people are scared,”; Lingle said, according to the Politico account. “;You're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts in spending on Medicare, and that's why you see members of AARP separated from their leadership on this issue. The heightened anger is out of fear for what it's going to mean for their lives and the lives of their families.”;

None of the bills before Congress calls for cuts in Medicare benefits, and President Obama called the notion that he is going to cut benefits another myth. “;We are not,”; he said at a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. “;AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, OK? ... We are talking about making Medicare more efficient, eliminating the insurance subsidies, working with hospitals so that they are changing some of the reimbursement practices.”;

Medicare cost $453 billion this year. Bills approved by three House committees would trim Medicare's anticipated growth over the next 10 years by $563 billion, the Washington Post reported. Most of the cuts would come from revision of reimbursements for doctors, discounts for prescription drugs and elimination of co-payments for preventive services — changes that would affect providers, not beneficiaries.

More than one-third of Medicare beneficiaries in Hawaii fell into the so-called “;doughnut hole”; in prescription drug coverage in 2007; Medicare provides coverage to beneficiaries until patients and their drug plans have paid $2,700, then requires patients to pay 100 percent of their drug costs until they have paid $4,350 out of pocket. Obama said his plan would “;cut that doughnut hole in half.”;

In addition, Obama would end Medicare Advantage, which allows seniors to opt to receive Medicare benefits through private insurance plans. “;Insurance companies basically get $177 billion of taxpayer money to provide services that Medicare already provides,”; said Obama at the town-hall meeting, calling it “;a giveaway of $177 billion”; to insurers.

Obama figures an additional $30 billion to $40 billion a year would be needed to pay for Medicare. The needed revenue would come from limiting people with incomes of at least $250,000 to the same tax deductions allowed middle-class taxpayers.