A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Boehner Misrepresents FactCheck.org’s Findings


Last week House Republican Leader John Boehner’s office issued a "Leader Alert" titled "10 Facts Every American Should Know About Speaker Pelosi’s 1,990-Page Gov’t Takeover of Health Care."

It’s a partisan document containing misleading characterizations of the bill. But the bullet point that bothers us most is #2, which reads:

MASSIVE CUTS TO MEDICARE BENEFITS FOR SENIORS. Despite grave warnings from CBO, FactCheck.org, and the independent Lewin Group that cuts to Medicare of the magnitude included in Speaker Pelosi’s bill would have a negative impact on seniors’ benefits and choices, Speaker Pelosi’s health care bill stays the course and cuts Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars.

We never have said that seniors would suffer "massive cuts to Medicare benefits" under the pending House or Senate overhaul bills, and in fact have done our best to debunk claims to that effect. The only seniors who might see cuts are those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, about 22 percent of the Medicare population. Currently, many of those seniors receive a bit more in benefits than regular Medicare fee-for-service patients – perhaps a gym membership, a pair of eyeglasses, a reduced premium. But, as we’ve written, Medicare pays the private companies that administer Medicare Advantage about 14 percent more per beneficiary than it does for the rest of Medicare beneficiaries, who wind up subsidizing the program, according to government analysts.

If current law didn’t change, the value of the additional benefits given under Medicare Advantage would amount to about $85 per senior per month in 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If the Senate bill passed (and the House bill is similar on this point), that would be reduced to about $42 per month. But under no circumstances would any senior receive less in benefits than the other 78 percent of the Medicare population.

We’re sure seniors who see benefit cuts of any kind won’t be happy about it. But to characterize these as "massive cuts," and our article (as well as CBO’s analysis) as a "grave warning" is simply rubbish.

We asked Boehner’s office to take our name out of the document, but spokesman Michael Steel said: "I’m not inclined to do so," and invited us to send an e-mail further making our case. We are doing so.