Conservative Media Revive Misleading Claim That Health Care Reform "Cut" $500 Billion From Medicare


During the debate over Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to phase out Medicare, conservatives in the media have revived the misleading claim that the Affordable Care Act contained "$500 billion in Medicare cuts." In fact, the "cuts" will come through eliminating parts of Medicare "seen as ineffective or wasteful," and experts predict that the quality of care under Medicare will not be shortchanged.

Right-Wing Media Figures Claim Affordable Care Act "Cut" $500 Billion From Medicare

Limbaugh: Winner Of NY Special Election "Criticized Obama And The Democrats For $500 Billion In Medicare Cuts." From the May 25 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: New York's 26th District is being portrayed here as the American people. And then Medicare reform, Paul Ryan's budget, was on the ballot. The winning candidate -- I'm going to get blue in the face saying this -- the winning candidate criticized Obama and the Democrats for $500 billion in Medicare cuts. The winning candidate. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/25/11]

Radio Host Chris Plante On Fox: "Barack Obama And Obamacare Gutted Medicare Of $500 Billion." From the May 25 edition of America Live:

PLANTE: I'll be happy to promote the Ryan plan. The Ryan plan saves Medicare. Barack Obama's Obamacare -- Barack Obama and Obamacare gutted Medicare of $500 billion. Now, that is a true statement of fact. [Fox News, America Live, 5/25/11]

WSJ Editorial: NY Special Election Winner "Had The Advantage Of Not Having Voted For ObamaCare's $500 Billion In Medicare Cuts." From a May 26 Wall Street Journal editorial:

Democrat Kathy Hochul, the Erie County clerk, won 47% of the vote in a district that was one of only four in New York that John McCain won in 2008. She ran a one-issue campaign against Paul Ryan's Medicare reform, and she had the advantage of not having voted for ObamaCare's $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Ms. Hochul also caught a big, late assist from Newt Gingrich and his own-goal attack on Mr. Ryan's plan. [The Wall Street Journal, 5/26/11]

In Fact, Savings Come From Reducing Inefficiency; Experts Predict Quality Of Care Under Medicare Will Not Decline

FactCheck: Cost-Saving Provisions Are "Not A Slashing Of The Current Medicare Budget Or Benefits." According to

Whatever you want to call them, it's a $500 billion reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits. It's true that those who get their coverage through Medicare Advantage's private plans (about 22 percent of Medicare enrollees) would see fewer add-on benefits; the bill aims to reduce the heftier payments made by the government to Medicare Advantage plans, compared with regular fee-for-service Medicare. The Democrats' bill also boosts certain benefits: It makes preventive care free and closes the "doughnut hole," a current gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors. [, 3/19/10]

PolitiFact: Reductions "Aimed At Eliminating Parts Of The Medicare Program Seen As Ineffective Or Wasteful." From

Under the act, Congress voted to reduce $500 billion in projected Medicare spending over the next 10 years, not in one substantial chunk. The reductions are aimed at eliminating parts of the Medicare program seen as ineffective or wasteful. For example, the plan phases out payments to the Medicare Advantage program, an optional program set up under the George W. Bush administration, where seniors could opt to enroll in a private insurance program and the federal government would subsidize a portion of their premium. [, 5/10/11]

PolitiFact: CBO Says "Spending For Medicare Will Continue To Increase Over The Next Decade." From

On the surface, it may seem that lawmakers voted to cut Medicare spending under the new health law, but they instead cut the rate of growth. As a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office notes, the amount of spending for Medicare will continue to increase over the next decade, from $499 billion in 2009 to $929 billion in 2020. [, 5/10/11]

PolitiFact: "Experts Say The Quality Of Care Should Not Be Shortchanged." From PolitiFact:

[E]ven though $500 billion in spending is being reduced, health care experts say the quality of care should not be shortchanged.

"Some (reforms) increase Medicare spending to improve benefits and coverage," said Tricia Neuman, vice president and director of the Medicare Policy Project at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, in a video on the foundation's website.

"Other provisions reduce the growth in Medicare spending to help the program operate more efficiently and help fund coverage expansions to the uninsured in the underlying health reform legislation," Neuman said. "Other provisions are designed to improve the delivery of care and quality of care." [, 5/10/11]

New England Journal Of Medicine: Affordable Care Act Eliminates "Substantial Overpayments" To Medicare Advantage Plans. From an article by Robert A. Berenson in The New England Journal of Medicine:

[T]he currently projected savings come from two main sources: reduced payments to private Medicare Advantage plans and reduced payment updates for hospitals and most other providers. A phased elimination of the substantial overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans, which now enroll nearly 25% of Medicare beneficiaries, will produce an estimated $132 billion in savings over 10 years.


The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has been calling for such fee reductions for years, to keep Medicare Advantage from undermining traditional Medicare.

The ACA also produces nearly $200 billion in savings by assuming that providers can improve their productivity as firms in other industries have done. On the basis of this presumed improvement, the law reduces Medicare's annual "market basket" updates for most types of providers -- a provision that has generated controversy. [The New England Journal of Medicine, 7/8/10]

FactCheck: Changes To Medicare Advantage Come With Extra Benefits For All Medicare Enrollees. According to

The CBO has estimated that the move would change the value of the extra benefits Medicare Advantage participants get, but they would not receive fewer benefits than the rest of seniors who aren't on the Advantage plans. The bill does add some extras for Medicare beneficiaries, eliminating copays and deductibles for preventive services, for example. [, 12/2/09]

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