Fox & Friends hosted Amy Frederick of the anti-Obamacare group 60+ Association to push a series of debunked falsehoods about how health care reform will affect seniors' insurance coverage. Contrary to Fox's claims, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides more health benefits to seniors, will strengthen Medicare, does not tax medical devices such as hearing aids and wheelchairs, and does not interfere with medical decisions seniors make with their doctors.
Fox Falsely Claims Obamacare Is “Sticking It To The Seniors”
Fox News' Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Obamacare Is “Sticking It To The Seniors.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck claimed that “President Obama passed Obamacare by making a lot of promises to Americans, but now some broken promises are hitting those who need health care the most: sticking it to the seniors, that's what's going on.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/26/13]
Health Care Reform Gave Millions Of Seniors More Health Benefits While Saving Them Money
Kaiser Health News: Health Care Law Provides More Medicare Preventative Care Services. According to Kaiser Health News, Medicare beneficiaries will have new benefits under the health care law, including more preventative care services and “more savings on prescription drug coverage”:
Q: Does the health care law offer any new benefits for Medicare beneficiaries?
A: Beneficiaries receive more preventative care services - including a yearly “wellness” visit, mammograms, colorectal screening, and more savings on prescription drug coverage. By 2020, the law will close the Medicare gap in prescription drug coverage, known as the “doughnut hole.” Seniors will still be responsible for 25 percent of their prescription drug costs. [Kaiser Health News, 9/23/13, via NBCNews.com]
Consumer Reports: ACA Offers Free Preventive Care To Seniors. A September 2012 guide from Consumer Reports on the effects of the ACA explained that under the law, Medicare beneficiaries can receive free preventive screenings and treatments:
Seniors no longer need to put off preventive care or yearly check-ups because of cost. Since 2011, they have been eligible for free cancer screenings, wellness visits, personalized prevention plans, vaccines, flu shots, and more. [Consumer Reports, “Health Reform: Seven Things You Need to Know Now,” accessed 9/26/13]
HHS Secretary Sebelius: Medicare Beneficiaries Saved More Than $6 Billion On Prescription Drugs. In a blog post on the Department of Health and Human Services website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained that by March 2013, the ACA had already helped seniors save billions of dollars on prescription drugs:
Today, we are announcing that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 6.3 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved more than $6.1 billion on prescription drugs since the health care law was enacted three years ago. This is the result of the law's closing of the prescription coverage gap known as “the donut hole.”
Nearly 3.5 million people with Medicare saved an average of more than $706 each on their prescriptions in 2012. [Department of Health and Human Services, HHS.gov/HealthCare, 3/21/13]
Fox Falsely Claims Health Care Reform Cuts Medicare
Fox News' Hasselbeck Claims Obama Broke His “Promise” To Strengthen Medicare For Seniors. On Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck said she and her guest, Amy Frederick of the 60+ Association, would “go through some of [Obama's] broken promises,” and claimed that Obama had failed to strengthen Medicare with health care reform. Frederick then claimed the ACA was “the end of Medicare as we know it”:
HASSELBECK: He told seniors he'd strengthen Medicare.
HASSELBECK: What's happening?
FREDERICK: Well we see that the health care bill has largely been passed at the expense of senior citizens. Cutting $716 billion to pay for health care. And seniors are savvy enough, they know that you can't cut from a system and strengthen it, it's like saying let's cut $700 billion from the education system and that that's, and somehow strengthening it. So I think this is the end of Medicare as we know it.
HASSELBECK: This is a group of people who truly understand budgeting and they know that you can't take water out of a stone here. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/26/13]
ACA Strengthens Medicare And Does Not Cut Benefits
Wash. Post's Wonkblog: Medicare Cost Reductions Do Not Cut Any Benefits. The Washington Post's Wonkblog explained that the majority of cuts to Medicare “come from reductions in how much Medicare reimburses hospitals and private health insurance companies,” but made clear that “there's one area these cuts don't touch: Medicare benefits. The Affordable Care Act rolls back payment rates for hospitals and insurers. It does not, however, change the basket of benefits that patients have access to.” [The Washington Post, Wonkblog, 8/14/12]
FactCheck.org: “The Law Stipulates That Guaranteed Medicare Benefits Won't Be Reduced, And It Adds Some New Benefits.” According to FactCheck.org, the health care law “stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won't be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals.” From FactCheck.org:
As we have written many times, the law does not slash the current Medicare budget by $500 billion. Rather, that's a $500 billion reduction in the future growth of Medicare over 10 years, or about a 7 percent reduction in growth over the decade. In other words, Medicare spending would continue to rise, just not as much. The law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won't be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals.
Most of those savings come from a reduction in the future growth of payments to hospitals and other providers (not physicians), and a reduction in payments to private Medicare Advantage plans to bring those payments in line with traditional Medicare. (MA plans have been paid more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.)
And it assumes they actually happen. There's good reason to think that some of those reductions won't be implemented. The law calls for cuts in the future growth of reimbursement payments to hospitals and other health care providers -- that accounts for $219 billion of the Medicare savings in the law. But Congress has consistently overridden similar scheduled cuts in payments to doctors. [FactCheck.org, 6/28/12]
Medicare Trustees: ACA Extends Medicare Solvency By 10 Years. A May 31 article on Talking Points Memo reported that the Medicare trustees' 2013 report stated that the ACA extends Medicare's solvency through 2026, for a total of 10 extra years:
The chief of Medicare on Friday credited Obamacare for continuing to help extend the life of Medicare after a new trustees' report said it will be solvent for two years longer than expected.
The trustees' report found that Medicare's trust fund will remain fully solvent until 2026; last year's projection was 2024. The two years comes on top of eight more years of initially projected solvency for Medicare due to the Affordable Care Act.
“The Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund is projected to be solvent for longer, which is good news for beneficiaries,” said Marilyn Tavenner, who runs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are taking important steps to improve the delivery of care for seniors with Medicare.” [Talking Points Memo, 5/31/13]
Fox Falsely Claims Seniors' Wheelchairs And Hearing Aids Will Be Taxed
Fox News' Hasselbeck Hypes Claim That Health Care Is Unaffordable Because Medical Devices Will Be Taxed. On Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck suggested that health care under the new law would no longer be affordable for seniors, while Frederick claimed the law taxed “essential things as wheelchairs and hearing aids, and that is stuff that is coming right out of senior citizens' budgets”:
HASSELBECK: Affordable. This was one word that was tossed around to seniors, this is affordable. What's the truth here?
FREDERICK: It's really, it should be called the unaffordable health care act. You know, the president promised he's not gonna raise taxes on middle class and hard-working families, and really this is just another tax increase. 30 billion in new taxes on prescription drugs for seniors and really such essential things as wheelchairs and hearing aids, and that is stuff that's coming right out of senior citizens' budgets. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/26/13]
The Tax Exempts Medical Devices Bought By Public For Individual Use
IRS: Medical Device Tax Does Not Apply To Devices That Are "Generally Purchased By The General Public At Retail For Individual Use," Such As “Eyeglasses, Contact Lenses, And Hearing Aids.” The IRS explained that the medical device tax was a “tax on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer or importer of the device,” and includes exemptions for “eyeglasses, contact lenses, and hearing aids. There is also an exemption for other devices that are of a type that are generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use (the retail exemption).” [Internal Revenue Service, 5/22/13]
IRS: Wheelchairs Fall Within Retail Exemption From Medical Device Tax. A FAQ on the medical device tax on the IRS website explains that wheelchairs are included in the retail exemption for the medical device tax:
Q17. Do the regulations illustrate how the retail exemption facts and circumstances test should be applied?
A17. Yes. The regulations include examples that apply the facts and circumstances test to several types of medical devices. Based on the totality of the circumstances presented in the examples, the examples conclude that non-sterile absorbent tipped applicators, adhesive bandages, snake bite suction kits, denture adhesives, mechanical and powered wheelchairs, portable oxygen concentrators, and therapeutic AC powered adjustable home use beds are devices that fall within the retail exemption. Based on the totality of the circumstances presented in the examples, the examples also conclude that mobile x-ray systems, nonabsorbable silk sutures, and nuclear magnetic resonance imaging systems are not devices that fall within the retail exemption. [Internal Revenue Service, 5/22/13]
Fox Falsely Claims Bureaucrats Will Make Seniors' Medical Decisions
Fox News' Hasselbeck Gives Guest Platform To Claim That “Bureaucrats” Will Come Between Seniors And Their Doctors. On Fox & Friends, Hasselbeck claimed that seniors were falsely promised “no one would come between their doctor, and their health”:
HASSELBECK: And now one thing I know that's important to seniors is that -- their relationship with their doctor. And it was promised that they could have -- no one was going to come between their doctor, and their health. What's the truth here?
FREDERICK: And that's something that's so important to senior citizens. The health care bill, it creates something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board, it's also known as IPAB, which is essentially 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats who are now -- their sole purpose is to decide what Medicare will or will not cover. So that relationship between you and your doctor, where they would decide what treatment was best for you, will now have a bureaucrat in between to decide is it something that they're going to cover or not. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/26/13]
Independent Board Cannot Make Medical Decisions For Individuals
CBPP: Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) Is An “Expert Body” With 15 Health Care Experts Appointed By The President And Confirmed By the Senate. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
The Independent Payment Advisory Board is an expert body charged with developing and submitting proposals to slow the growth of Medicare and private health care spending and improve the quality of care. The President nominates the board's 15 members, who require Senate confirmation, for staggered six-year terms. The board must include physicians and other health professionals, experts in health finance, health services researchers, employers, and representatives of consumers and the elderly. To prevent control by special interests, health care providers may not constitute a majority of the board's membership. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/15/12]
Health Care Law Explicitly States That IPAB Cannot Make “Any Recommendation To Ration Health Care.” The text of the ACA confirms that IPAB cannot make “any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria”:
The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums under section 1818, 1818A, or 1839, increase Medicare beneficiary cost- sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accessed 8/13/13, OpenCongress.org]
PolitiFact: IPAB “Wouldn't Make Any Health Care Decisions For Individual Americans.” A PolitiFact analysis of the claim that IPAB would make the final decision on available treatments found that IPAB would make broad policy decisions, not individual recommendations. It also noted that IPAB is “forbidden from submitting 'any recommendation to ration health care'”:
The health care law directs a new national board -- with 15 members who are political appointees -- to identify Medicare savings. It's forbidden from submitting “any recommendation to ration health care,” as Section 3403 of the health care law states. It may not raise premiums for Medicare beneficiaries or increase deductibles, coinsurance or co-payments. The IPAB also cannot change who is eligible for Medicare, restrict benefits or make recommendations that would raise revenue.
What it can do is reduce how much the government pays health care providers for services, reduce payments to hospitals with very high rates of re-admissions or recommend innovations that cut wasteful spending. Some argue that because the IPAB can reduce the money a doctor receives, this could lead to an indirect form of rationing.
But the board wouldn't make any health care decisions for individual Americans. Instead, as PolitiFact Georgia reported, it would make broad policy decisions that affect Medicare's overall cost. [PolitiFact, 10/4/12]