What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 6, 2010

The Tribune-Review's Hall Of Mirrors

This one's a doosey.

Ignoring the as always unmentioned $8.74 million in Scaife money funneled to Judicial Watch by the Tribune-Review's owner, Richard Mellon Scaife, for a moment, take a look at what Scaife's braintrust runs with this morning:
Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor wouldn't have fallen for the dishonest TV ads in which the actor who played him, Andy Griffith, touted ObamaCare -- and surely wouldn't have cottoned to the Obama administration spending more than $3.1 million so self-servingly.

Government documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act show the Department of Health and Human Services spent $404,000 on production and $2.78 million on airtime for three such ads. The documents also show that a former Obama campaign spokeswoman worked on the ads for the public relations firm that produced them.

The first ad falsely claimed that senior citizens will have their guaranteed benefits under ObamaCare. In truth, benefits for about 10 million Medicare Advantage recipients will be cut by about $43 a month, according to nonpartisan FactCheck.org.
Here's the initial "Sheriff Andy" posting from Factcheck and it says, basically, though not exactly what the Trib says it says. The important part:
As we wrote most recently last December, about 10 million Medicare Advantage recipients could see their extra benefits reduced by an average of $43 per month, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
While it's true that an average of $43/month is not exactly the same as about $43/month (though it's close enough) that's beside the point, I think. The gateway to the Trib's spin is Medicare Advantage. What is it, exactly?

Luckily, Factcheck has an answer:
A little background: Medicare recipients since the 1970s have been able to choose to receive their benefits through private health plans, rather than through the traditional, government-run, fee-for-service form of Medicare. Medicare Advantage is the most recent incarnation of this alternative. Republicans have generally favored these private options more than Democrats, and in 2003 the GOP Congress and president increased the amount Medicare paid to the plans to handle Medicare beneficiaries.

At this point, government payments to Medicare Advantage plans are 14 percent higher per enrollee, on average, than the cost of traditional fee-for-service in a given geographical area, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. What do the plans do with the additional money? Often they use at least some of it to reduce premiums or cost-sharing for recipients. In some cases, though not all, seniors have been able to save money by signing up for a Medicare Advantage program.

But according to the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee, which is an independent congressional agency, the additional spending for Medicare Advantage programs – which adds up to billions each year – is hastening the depletion of the Medicare trust fund. It has also meant higher premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Government Accountability Office, another nonpartisan arm of Congress. As GAO put it, "beneficiaries covered under Medicare FFS are subsidizing the additional benefits and lower costs that MA beneficiaries receive."

Long recognized as a possible source of savings – and mentioned as such by Obama during the presidential campaign – payments to Medicare Advantage programs under the House bill would be reduced over several years until they are equal to the costs of traditional Medicare. (Medicare payments are calculated by county.) The measure would reduce the growth of future Medicare spending by $156 billion over 10 years. The result, based on prior experience with tinkering with the payment formulas, could be that some plans decide to withdraw from the Advantage program, said Brian Biles of George Washington University’s Department of Health Policy in a telephone interview, leaving them to choose from surviving Medicare Advantage plans or return to the traditional Medicare fee for service program that currently covers the other 78 percent of beneficiaries.
So what does this mean? It means exactly what the ad said it meant. The guaranteed benefits stay the same - it's the extras (the ones that are increasing the cost by $156 billion of the overall program) that are being reduced.

According to the same source cited by the Braintrust says that the non-Medicare Advantage plans are subsidizing Medicare Advantage and that reducing or eliminating those subsidies will save money.

I thought the conservatives were in favor of reducing costs. I guess that's not always the case.


Piltdown Man said...

They don't care a shit about saving money. Never have. It's just their schtick. And the lumpenprole buy it, apparently, so the GOP keeps pouring it into their troughs and they keep slopping it up. Yum, good!

Witness the current "Bush tax cuts" insanity. Classic case.

They won't agree to the extension of unemployment benefits "unless it's paid for by cuts elsewhere." However, how do they propose to offset the massive, ongoing costs of the tax cuts??? Not a peep.

Of course, we have the Hoover White House in charge of selling us down the river without a word, so perhaps the GOP deserves to win...

For my part, I'm checking out Malmo, Sweden.....

The Old New Englander said...

Medicare Advantage plans are advantageous for the insurance companies, not for Medicare recipients or the nation.