Luntz's "gambit": Fearmongering that Obama is "declaring war on Medicare"

››› ››› DIANNA PARKER

On Fox News' Hannity, GOP consultant Frank Luntz forwarded the false conservative talking point that President Obama plans to cut Medicare benefits, claiming that it "is almost like he's declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to pay for health care," and that it is a "fact" that "[t]hey're talking about lowering the reimbursements for Medicare." In fact, as FactCheck.org noted: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."

From the August 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

LUNTZ: That's half of it. And the other half is that he's actually attacking Medicare. And that is something that's really important for your audience, whether you're 65 or older, you've got parents who are 65 or older. Barack Obama -- from this language -- I've got the text -- it's almost like he's declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to be able to pay for health care. It's an interesting gambit, Sean, and I don't think it's going to work.

[...]

LUNTZ: I think that this debate can and should be conducted in a civil and meaningful manner. That said -- again, I point to the language that -- "Not these wild misrepresentations." I've started to read the bill. They're talking about lowering the reimbursements for Medicare. That is not a misinterpretation. That is a fact. And every senior has the right to know exactly what will be paid for and what won't be.

And every doctor, Sean, has the right to know whether they're going to be reimbursed for their service or not.

FactCheck.org, AARP have rebutted notion that health reform will reduce Medicare benefits

FactCheck.org: "The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."

From FactCheck.org's August 14 article, "Seven Falsehoods About Health Care":

False: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed

The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.

The truth is that the pending House bill extracts $500 billion from projected Medicare spending over 10 years, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, by doing such things as trimming projected increases in the program's payments for medical services, not including physicians. Increases in other areas, such as payments to doctors, bring the net savings down to less than half that amount. But none of the predicted savings -- or cuts, depending on one's perspective -- come from reducing current or future benefits for seniors.

The president has promised repeatedly that benefit levels won't be reduced, reiterating the point recently in Portsmouth, N.H.:

Obama, Aug. 11: Another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not.

Is he wrong? Not according to AARP, by far the nation's largest organization representing the over-50 population. In a "Myths vs. Facts" rundown, AARP says:

AARP: Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.

To be sure, Obama hasn't always thought that Medicare "savings" could be accomplished without actual cuts in benefits. Last fall, his campaign ran two television ads accusing Sen. John McCain of wanting "a 22 percent cut in [Medicare] benefits." The basis for the ads was a newspaper article in which a McCain aide said the Arizona Republican would cut Medicare costs. But the aide said nothing about cutting benefits, in fact quite the contrary. We called the claim "false" when Obama made it against McCain, and it's still false now when Obama's critics are making the same accusation against him. [FactCheck.org, 8/14/09]

FactCheck.org: "Congress isn't proposing to cut [Medicare] benefit levels." According to an August 18 FactCheck.org article, "None of the 'savings' or 'cuts' (whichever you prefer)" to Medicare in the House bill "come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors." From the article:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House bill would result in "savings" of $219 billion after all increases and decreases are netted out. The House bill would trim projected increases in payments for hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others, including home health care providers and suppliers of motor-driven wheelchairs. But it also proposes what CBO estimates is a $245 billion increase in spending for doctors, by canceling a scheduled 21 percent cut in physician payments. None of the "savings" or "cuts" (whichever you prefer) come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors. [FactCheck.org, 8/18/09]

AARP says idea that "Health care reform will hurt Medicare" is a "Myth." From the AARP's "Myths vs. Facts" on health care reform:

Myth: Health care reform will hurt Medicare.

Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.

Fact: Health care reform will lower prescription drug costs for people in the Medicare Part D coverage gap or "doughnut hole" so they can get better afford the drugs they need.

Fact: Health care reform will protect seniors' access to their doctors and reduce the cost of preventive services so patients stay healthier.

Fact: Health care reform will reduce costly, preventable hospital readmissions, saving patients and Medicare money.

Fact: Rather than weaken Medicare, health care reform will strengthen the financial status of the Medicare program.

Bottom Line: For people in Medicare, health care reform is about lowering prescription drug costs for people in the "doughnut hole", keeping the doctor of your choice, improving the quality of care, and eliminating billions in waste that is causing poor care and medical errors. [AARP, accessed 8/18/09]

Medicare scare is a GOP talking point

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly claimed that health reform proposals will be paid for "through massive cuts to Medicare." As Media Matters for America noted, in an August 18 article, the Associated Press quoted McConnell claiming that health reform proposals will be paid for "through massive cuts to Medicare," without pointing out, as FactCheck.org did, that "[t]he claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false."

From the August 18 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

LUNTZ: But here's an example where the Republicans initially react favorably, but when Obama finishes his statement, boy, do the Republicans not like it at all. Let's listen.

OBAMA [video clip]: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.

And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting out the waste and insurance company giveaways in Medicare that aren't making any of our seniors healthy.

HANNITY: You know what's amazing to me, Frank? This attack line against the insurance companies seems to work only with Democrats. Democrats believe in government. Is that -- that's my read on it. Yours?

LUNTZ: That's half of it. And the other half is that he's actually attacking Medicare. And that is something that's really important for your audience, whether you're 65 or older, you've got parents who are 65 or older. Barack Obama -- from this language -- I've got the text -- it's almost like he's declaring war on Medicare because it's the only way for him to be able to pay for health care. It's an interesting gambit, Sean, and I don't think it's going to work.

[...]

LUNTZ: I think that this debate can and should be conducted in a civil and meaningful manner. That said -- again, I point to the language that -- "Not these wild misrepresentations." I've started to read the bill. They're talking about lowering the reimbursements for Medicare. That is not a misinterpretation. That is a fact. And every senior has the right to know exactly what will be paid for and what won't be.

And every doctor, Sean, has the right to know whether they're going to be reimbursed for their service or not.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Frank Luntz
Show/Publication
Hannity
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