Fox's Chris Wallace Advances GOP's False Medicare Talking Point

Fox's Chris Wallace repeated Congressman Paul Ryan's false accusation that the Obama administration is guilty of “raiding $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare.” In fact, the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by cutting waste, extending the life of the trust fund and reducing costs for seniors.

Wallace Repeated GOP Attack That Obama Is “Raiding $716 Billion From Medicare”

Wallace Forwarded Ryan Attack That Obama Administration Is “Raiding $716 Billion From Medicare To Pay For Obamacare.” Discussing Ryan's speech at the Republican National Convention, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace repeated Ryan's criticism of the Obama administration, including the false claim that “the real threat to Medicare comes from the Obamacare and the fact that they're raiding $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare”:

WALLACE: [Ryan's speech] was as cogent as coherent as searing an indictment of the Obama record as you have heard from the critics; obviously, his supporters are gonna disagree. But it was an indictment with a bill of particulars.


WALLACE: Medicare, which I think he really stood on his head. Of course, a lot of people knew Paul Ryan as the man in those ads who supposedly pushed Granny in a wheelchair up a hill and then off a cliff. He said, no, the real threat to Medicare comes from the Obamacare and the fact that they're raiding $716 billion from Medicare to pay for Obamacare. [Fox News, America's Election HQ, 8/29/12]

Paul Ryan: Medicare “Is Being Sacrificed” To “Pay For A New Entitlement.” From Ryan's speech to the Republican National Convention:

RYAN: And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.

You see, even with all the hidden taxes to pay for the health care takeover, even with new taxes on nearly a million small businesses, the planners in Washington still didn't have enough money. They needed more. They needed hundreds of billions more. So, they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama. An obligation we have to our parents and grandparents is being sacrificed, all to pay for a new entitlement we didn't even ask for. The greatest threat to Medicare is Obamacare, and we're going to stop it. [Huffington Post, 8/29/12]

In Fact, Ryan Medicare Claim Is Misleading And Not Very True

PolitiFact: Ryan Medicare Claim “Gives A Very Misleading Impression.” A PolitiFact fact-check of Ryan's claim that Obama “funneled” $716 billion out of Medicare “at the expense of the elderly” found that "[t]his gives a very misleading impression." PolitiFact continued:

In fact, the law limits payments to health care providers and insurers to try to reduce the rapid growth of future Medicare spending. Lawmakers said they hoped the measures would improve care and efficiency. Those savings, spread out over the next 10 years, are then used to offset costs created by the law (especially coverage for the uninsured) so that the overall law doesn't add to the deficit. Ryan's statement is exaggerated and we rate it Mostly False. [PolitiFact, 8/29/12]

New Republic's Jonathan Cohn: Medicare Claim Is “Not Very True.” In a piece for National Public Radio titled, “Who's Raiding Medicare? Not Obama,” New Republic senior editor Jonathan Cohn wrote that a Mitt Romney campaign ad claiming that Obama “has cut $716 billion from Medicare” to “pay for Obamacare” is “not very subtle” and “not very true.” Cohn added that “if somebody here is raiding Medicare, it's not Obama.” [National Public Radio, 8/16/12]

Affordable Care Act Cuts Payments To Hospitals And Insurance Companies -- Not Benefits To Seniors

Wash. Post: Affordable Care Act Would Not “Change The Basket Of Benefits That Patients Have Access To.” The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff pointed out that it's “worth noting that there's one area these cuts don't touch: Medicare benefits.” From the post:

The Medicare Advantage cut gets the most attention, but it only accounts for about a third of the Affordable Care Act's spending reduction. Another big chunk comes from the hospitals. The health law changed how Medicare calculates what they get reimbursed for various services, slightly lowering their rates over time. Hospitals agreed to these cuts because they knew, at the same time, they would likely see an influx of paying patients with the Affordable Care Act's insurance expansion.

The rest of the Affordable Care Act's Medicare cuts are a lot smaller. Reductions to Medicare's Disproportionate Share Payments -- extra funds doled out the hospitals that see more uninsured patients -- account for 5 percent in savings. Lower payments to home health providers make up another 8.8 percent. About a dozen cuts of this magnitude make up the green section above.

It's worth noting 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, 8/15/12]

ABC News: “The $716 Billion In Cuts Do Not Affect Benefits For Today's Seniors.” ABC News reported that the $716 billion in cuts the Obama administration proposed to Medicare “do not affect benefits for today's seniors” and that instead, “reduce provider reimbursements and are intended to curb waste, fraud and abuse.” [ABC News, 8/18/12] Affordable Care Act “Stipulates That Guaranteed Medicare Benefits Won't Be Reduced.” noted that the Affordable Care Act “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”:

As we have written many times, the [Affordable Care Act] 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. [, 6/28/12]

The Affordable Care Act Extends The Life Of The Medicare Trust Fund

Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services: “Without The Affordable Care Act, The HI Trust Fund Would Expire ... In 2016.” In a press release announcing its 2012 Medicare Trustees report, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wrote that "[w]ithout the Affordable Care Act, the HI Trust Fund would expire ... in 2016":

The Medicare Trustees Report released today shows that the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund is expected to remain solvent until 2024, the same as last year's estimate, but action is needed to secure its long-term future. In 2011, the HI Trust Fund expenditures were lower than expected.

Without the Affordable Care Act, the HI Trust Fund would expire 8 years earlier, in 2016. The law provides important tools to control costs over the long run such as changing the way Medicare pays providers to reward efficient, quality care. These efforts to reform the healthcare delivery system are not factored into the Trustees projections as many of the initiatives are just launching.

“The Trustees Report tells us that while Medicare is stable for now, we have a lot of work ahead of us to guarantee its future,” said Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “The Affordable Care Act is giving CMS the ability to do this work, with tools to lower costs, fight fraud, and change incentives so that Medicare pays for coordinated, quality care and not the number of services.” [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 4/23/12]

NY Times: Health Care Law Extended Medicare Solvency By Eight Years. The New York Times reported that "[s]ince the passage of the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare trustees have shifted the projected date of insolvency to 2024 from 2016":

The Congressional Budget Office and the chief actuary for the Medicare and Medicaid programs, Richard S. Foster, have concluded that the $500 billion in savings would extend the solvency of Medicare's hospital insurance trust fund. Since the passage of the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare trustees have shifted the projected date of insolvency to 2024 from 2016.

Mr. Foster, in this year's report by the trustees, wrote that “the Affordable Care Act makes important changes to the Medicare program and substantially improves its financial outlook.” [The New York Times, 7/6/12]

The Affordable Care Act Reduces Costs For Seniors

ACA Closed the Medicare “Donut Hole,” Saving Seniors Thousands Of Dollars On Prescription Drugs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a paper describing the effects of Ryan's plan, wrote that the Affordable Care Act closed “the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage that many seniors experienced once their annual drug costs exceeded $2,840.” The Center also noted that “five million Medicare beneficiaries have saved more than $3.2 billion, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.” [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/28/12]

ACA “Eliminates Cost Sharing For Recommended Preventative Services Covered By Medicare.” From Health Affairs and the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation:

As of January 1, 2011, the new law will also require coverage for a new annual wellness visit under Medicare and eliminates cost sharing for recommended preventive services covered by Medicare. Additionally, the new law gives state Medicaid programs financial incentives to cover preventive services for adults and supports initiatives to improve public understanding of the benefits of lifetime preventive services. [Health Affairs, 12/29/10]

NY Times: Restoring Medicare Cuts “Would Immediately Add Hundreds Of Dollars A Year To Out-Of-Pocket Medicare Expenses For Beneficiaries.” From The New York Times:

While Republicans have raised legitimate questions about the long-term feasibility of the reimbursement cuts, analysts say, to restore them in the short term would immediately add hundreds of dollars a year to out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for beneficiaries.


Marilyn Moon, vice president and director of the health program at the American Institutes for Research, calculated that restoring the $716 billion in Medicare savings would increase premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries by $342 a year on average over the next decade; in 2022, the average increase would be $577.

Beneficiaries, through their premiums and co-payments, share the cost of Medicare with the government. If Medicare's costs increase -- for instance, by raising payments to health care providers -- so, too, do beneficiaries' contributions. [The New York Times, 8/22/12]

Moreover, Paul Ryan's Budget Includes Same Cuts

Wash. Post: “Paul Ryan's Budget Keeps Obama's Medicare Cuts. Full Stop.” The Washington Post's Ezra Klein noted, “Since the Romney campaign wants to run against President Obama's cuts to Medicare, it's something of a problem for them that Paul Ryan's budget includes those very same cuts to Medicare.” From the post:

What they're doing is switching between two questions very quickly. The first question is: “How much money are you cutting from Medicare?” The second question is: “How much overall deficit reduction is contained in your plan?” And the second question isn't getting answered.

Here's what everyone agrees on: Ryan and Obama include the same cuts to the Medicare program itself. So if you're an insurance company participating in the Medicare Advantage program, you're getting the same cut no matter who wins the election. So the answer to the first question is, “the same amount as the Obama administration.” [The Washington Post, 8/14/12]

ABC News: Ryan Endorsed Medicare Cuts In His Budget Plan. From an Political Punch blog post:

One way or another, Barack Obama, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney all have supported the $700 billion in cuts to Medicare spending now in place under the Affordable Care Act.

But you wouldn't know that by listening to the current debate.

The Romney-Ryan campaign in its latest TV ad assails Obama for approving the cuts in 2010. “Obama has cut $716 billion dollars from Medicare,” says the narrator. “The money you paid for your guaranteed health going to a massive new government program that's not for you.”

Voters might be left with the impression that Romney and Ryan have both opposed the cuts. The truth is that Ryan himself endorses them in his signature budget plan -- the same plan Romney has said he would sign as president if it reached his desk.

Those Medicare savings -achieved through reduced provider reimbursements and curbed waste, fraud and abuse, not benefit cuts - appear in the House Republicans' FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored. [, 8/14/12]