Alexander: Medicare Brochure Sent at Taxpayer Expense is “Propaganda”

“[This brochure] doesn’t tell the truth in the way that we Medicare beneficiaries deserve to have the truth told to us about what the health care law does.” – Lamar Alexander

Posted on June 8, 2010

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today made the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate. 

  • “I received the other day a nice envelope from the Department of Health and Human Services with a nice brochure – ‘Medicare and the New Health Care Law: What It Means to You.’  I’m one of those Americans who are 65 or older, so I’m a part of Medicare and I was interested to read the brochure because I spent a lot of time on the new health care law.  As I read through this brochure, it didn’t bear very much relationship to the way I understood the law that I voted on Christmas Eve at the end of last year when we passed this health care law.”
    • BROCHURE CLAIM: “The brochure claims in the first paragraph that the new health care law will result in ‘increased quality health care.’  Well, that would mean to me, I would think, that I would continue to have at least the coverage that I’m having today and hopefully more.”
    • FACT: “Yet, Medicare’s own chief actuary noted in an April 22nd memorandum that without intervening legislation to correct the payment cuts in the new law, some providers would ‘end participation in the program’ with the effect of ‘possibly jeopardizing access for beneficiaries’ . . . that doesn’t sound like increased quality health care to me.”
    • CLAIM: “The second paragraph of the brochure says the new health care law will keep ‘Medicare strong and solvent.’” 
    • FACT: “Now here’s the truth: the $529 billion in cuts to Medicare—no one disputes that we have those—are being used to pay for a $1 trillion health care bill, not to shore up Medicare . . . Common sense says that if you take $529 billion out of Medicare over the first ten years or $1 trillion out of Medicare over ten years, when it’s fully implemented, and you spend almost all of that on something other than Medicare, that’s not the way to make Medicare more solvent.”
    • CLAIM: “On the second page the brochure says ‘if you’re in the Medicare Advantage plan, you will still receive guaranteed Medicare benefits.’”
    • FACT: “This is one of the most disingenuous comments in the brochure.  If you read that and are one of the more than 11 million people on Medicare Advantage, you’d think my Medicare Advantage must be okay.  But the truth is Medicare Advantage plans will have ‘less generous benefit packages,’ according to the CMS chief actuary.”
    • CLAIM: “It says ‘the new law preserves and strengthens Medicare.’”
    • FACT: “I also think that’s disingenuous because the new law does not include paying doctors who serve Medicare patients the proper compensation.”
  • “I’m very disappointed that the administration in its effort to make the health care law sound better would send out what amounts to propaganda.  There is a federal law against propaganda—it says that annual appropriations can’t be used ‘for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States’ . . . I don’t know whether this violates the law, but it doesn’t tell the truth in the way that we Medicare beneficiaries deserve to have the truth told to us about what the health care law does.  I’m disappointed in it.”