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Independent Government Audit Finds Fault with Obama Administration’s Misleading Health Care Mailer

September 09, 2010

Today, the independent and nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report finding the Obama Administration’s nearly $20 million Medicare mailer misleads America’s seniors by falsely claiming the Democrats’ health care law would not negatively impact seniors’ benefits.  Specifically, GAO states:    

  • “[T]he brochure overstates some of [the Democrats’ health overhaul’s] benefits”;
  • “In our view, the brochure presents a picture of PPACA that is not universally shared.  For example, two government analyses have determined that [the Democrats’ health overhaul] reductions in funding for Medicare Advantage may decrease enrollment and result in less generous benefit packages,” and “…significant increases in premiums for some beneficiaries may be necessary” [emphasis added]; and   
  • “The brochure does not provide beneficiaries with a comprehensive summary of changes to Medicare that will be implemented as a result of [the Democrats’ health overhaul], and in several instances it provides abbreviated information that leaves out details about [the Democrats’ health overhaul].” 

The GAO investigation was requested in May, by Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Dave Camp and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Wally Herger.

Ways and Means Ranking Member Camp said, “This independent audit is another confirmation that despite what the Administration claims, the Democrats’ health care law and its one-half trillion dollar cut to Medicare is bad for seniors.  The fact that the Administration is using taxpayer funds to mislead seniors is extremely disturbing and Democrats in Washington should demand the Administration appear before Congress to testify about this and other concerns with the new health care law.  The Democrats’ failure to hold hearings, which Republicans have repeatedly requested, is a failure to conduct the necessary and appropriate oversight to protect seniors and the American taxpayers.”

Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Herger said, “Instead of listening to the American peoples’ concerns about their trillion-dollar health care overhaul, the Obama Administration has resorted to spending even more taxpayer money to produce misleading advertisements that gloss over this law’s very real costs. The new health care law cuts Medicare benefits for millions of seniors to create a new entitlement, and the Administration’s self-serving spin can’t change that fact. Instead of trying to defend the indefensible, the Administration and Democratic leaders in Congress should work with Republicans to repeal this law and replace it with real reforms that bring down the cost of health care.”

GAO identified several misleading statements about the Democrats’ health care overhaul in the brochure, including:  

  • “Improvements Beyond Medicare That You and Your Family Can Count On”; 
  • “[i]nsurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition for children starting in September, and for adults in 2014”;
  • “Keeps Medicare Strong and Solvent”;
  • “Improvements to Medicare Advantage”;
  • “increases the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and physician assistants”;
  • “ensure accountability throughout the health care system”;
  • “reduces payment errors, waste, fraud, and abuse”; and
  • “guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t change—whether you get them through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.”

Finally, GAO highlighted the Administration’s use of taxpayer funds to inform seniors about programs they are ineligible to participate in stating, “the brochure provides information about [the Democrats’ health overhaul] generally that may not be directly relevant to the Medicare program or recipients of the brochure.”  

Despite spending nearly $20 million of taxpayer dollars to publicize the law, seniors continue to view the law negatively, and with good reason.   Such assertions fly in the face of independent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Obama Administration’s own Medicare Actuaries, which have both documented that the law cuts Medicare by over one-half trillion dollars, jeopardizes seniors’ access to health care, causes millions of Americans to lose the plan they have and like, and could create doctor and hospital shortages.