The Undead $700 Billion Medicare Claim

A Medicare myth that won't stay buried

Happy Halloween, and would one of you equipped with a stake today please drive it into the heart of a particular vampire?

I’m talking about the claim that Obamacare cuts roughly $700 billion from Medicare ($716 billion is the more precise, but equally misleading, figure).

This was repeated, and thoroughly debunked, during the Presidential campaign two years ago: In an attempt to lower costs, the Affordable Care Act reduces government subsidies to private health insurers under Medicare Advantage, the Bush-era option that allows seniors to choose private companies for coverage.

Medicare Advantage was adopted in 2003 under the premise that it would reduce costs through increased competition. Costs actually rose. The $716 billion figure represents the difference between anticipated Medicare spending before the ACA was passed—in reimbursements to private insurers and hospitals, mainly—and projected savings over the act’s first decade. The Medicare Trust Fund remained, and remains, untouched.

Nonetheless, we’re still seeing TV ads in the Kay Hagan-Thom Tillis race here, and in other Senate races throughout the country, still making the $700 billion cut claim. They’re paid for by Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit advocacy wing of American Crossroads, the Super PAC co-founded and still advised by Karl Rove, which should tell you most of what you need to know about its veracity.

There’s always been a special shamelessness about this claim. Two years ago, it glossed over then-Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s embrace of the same “cuts” he was deriding in campaign speeches.

But it’s even more basic than that: a lie about nonexistent cuts to a valued government health care program that works from people ideologically opposed to government-run health care—and used to obscure that the cuts were made necessary by the private sector’s failure in the health care market.

This is what’s called a “zombie lie.” What’s it going to take to finally kill this thing?

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest