As President Obama and Democrats in Congress continue to work for quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Congressional Republicans are now claiming to be defenders of Medicare — an institution their party has sought to dismantle as recently as April of this year. Republicans have also been on a well-organized campaign to defend possibly illegal actions by health insurance companies. The news media are calling them out.
THE REPUBLICAN RECORD: FIGHTING MEDICARE
In April, 80 percent of House Republicans voted for Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican Budget substitute amendment which would have essentially ended Medicare as we know it by turning it into a fixed voucher system where seniors would be forced to find health insurance on the private market.
It has been frustrating to watch Republican leaders posture as the vigilant protectors of Medicare against health care reforms designed to make the system better and more equitable. This is the same party that in the past tried to pare back Medicare and has repeatedly denounced the kind of single-payer system that is at the heart of Medicare and its popularity…
…coverage for a vast majority of Medicare recipients, those in traditional Medicare, should actually improve under health care reform…
After years of trying to cut Medicare spending, Republican lawmakers have emerged as champions of the program, accusing Democrats of trying to steal from the elderly to cover the cost of health reform.
It’s a lonely battle. The hospital associations, AARP and other powerful interest groups that usually howl over Medicare cuts have also switched sides. Last week, they stood silent as the Senate Finance Committee debated a plan to slice more than $400 billion over the next decade from Medicare, the revered federal insurance program for people over 65, and Medicaid, which also serves many seniors…
AARP and other groups say the cuts are small enough to be absorbed without affecting services, and many health policy analysts tend to agree.
…So this past week, Republicans seized upon seniors’ concerns about losing benefits and high-quality care as their own cause cÃƒÂ©lÃƒÂ¨bre. GOP leaders, who for decades have called for scaling back Medicare and just this spring proposed eventually ending it, now are arguing that Democrats’ proposed prescriptions for remaking the costly and inefficient U.S. health care system would lead to benefit cuts for the elderly.
THE REPUBLICAN RECORD: FIGHTING FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES
Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) instructed health insurance companies offering Medicare Advantage plans and services to stop spreading misinformation — specifically in mailings and company websites – about the impact of health insurance reform to Medicare enrollees.
CMS issued the directive because of the likelihood that seniors and people with disabilities would believe this information to be “official communication about the Medicare Advantage program” rather than the opinion of the health insurance company. Furthermore, CMS indicated this kind of communication may be a violation of both federal regulations and federal law because these companies were misusing official Medicare enrollee data to lobby against legislation.
Rather than standing up for seniors and the lawful use of government resources, Republicans quickly came to the defense of big insurance companies over the rights of seniors' privacy and to get accurate information. Senate Republicans are even threatening to hold up all of the Obama Administration's key health care nominations if CMS doesn't allow these companies to continue spreading misinformation to seniors.
Congressional Republicans have worked themselves into a high dudgeon over a Health and Human Services department probe into one insurance company’s controversial lobbying activities.
…Lost in all this righteous indignation are some basic facts about Humana's role and obligations as a government contractor. Humana's communications did not take the form of a generic advertising campaign or mass mailing — something the insurer was and remains free to do. Rather, Humana mailed a letter to Medicare Advantage members whose names and addresses were provided by the federal government…
The question is: Does CMS have a right to investigate whether a federal contractor misused a government mailing list? On that score, the HHS probe appears well within bounds. If anything, it’s the GOP’s dire warnings and threats of retaliation that begin to step over the line.