The New York Times is reporting that beginning tomorrow, President Obama will embark on a “public relations offensive” hoping to convince a skeptical American electorate that the Democrats’ health care overhaul is good for them. First up, “a nationally televised question-and-answer session” with seniors to highlight the one-time, $250 rebate check that relatively few seniors will receive if they reach the Medicare Part D donut hole this year. Don’t be surprised if the President forgets to mention that more than 9 in 10 Medicare beneficiaries will never receive one of these checks*.
Despite the President’s PR campaign, the problem remains the policy: according the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the $250 one-time check pales in comparison to the $8,980 per senior cut in Medicare spending under the law over the next ten years**.
It is not surprising that the President is seeking to oversell this provision of the Democrats’ health care law. It’s certainly better than trumpeting other facts that should be of great concern to seniors:
- The Obama Administration’s own Medicare actuaries’ warning that the one-half trillion dollars in Medicare cuts could jeopardize seniors’ access to care;
- The Obama Administration’s own Medicare actuaries’ prediction that 7.4 million Medicare beneficiaries who would have been enrolled in a Medicare health plan will lose their plan because of the $206 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage (MA);
- CBO’s prediction that the value of extra benefits received by seniors enrolled in MA plans will be slashed by $816, on average, in 2019;
- The fact that millions of retirees are at risk of losing their retiree health coverage as a result new taxes on retiree prescription drug coverage that employers will be subjected to; and
- CBO’s estimate that Medicare prescription drug coverage premiums will increase by 9 percent as a result of the Democrats’ health law.
* See Letter from the Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, United States Dept. of Health and Human Services, to Congressional leadership (May 11, 2010) predicting that 4 million of the 45 million Medicare enrollees are expected to receive a one-time rebate check.
** See Letter from Douglas Elmendorf, Director, Congressional Budget Office, to the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives (Mar. 20, 2010) (estimating $528 billion in Medicare cuts, which was divided by 58.8 million enrollees, the Medicare Trustees’ prediction for 2018 enrollment).