Boehner: "Not Inclined" to Tell the Truth

by Jonathan Cohn | November 2, 2009

House Minority Leader John Boehner recently released a memo arguing, among other things, that the House Democrats' health care bill would result in "massive cuts to Medicare benefits for seniors" and "a negative impact on seniors' benefits and choices."

It's nothing the Republicans haven't said before. But this time, to justify the claim, Boehner said he was relying in part on a finding finding from Factcheck.org. The problem? Factcheck.org didn't actually conclude the House bill would have that effect, as the organization explains today on its blog:

We never have said that seniors would suffer "massive cuts to Medicare benefits" under the pending House or Senate overhaul bills, and in fact have done our best to debunk claims to that effect. The only seniors who might see cuts are those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, about 22 percent of the Medicare population. Currently, many of those seniors receive a bit more in benefits than regular Medicare fee-for-service patients – perhaps a gym membership, a pair of eyeglasses, a reduced premium. But, as we’ve written, Medicare pays the private companies that administer Medicare Advantage about 14 percent more per beneficiary than it does for the rest of Medicare beneficiaries, who wind up subsidizing the program, according to government analysts.

If current law didn’t change, the value of the additional benefits given under Medicare Advantage would amount to about $85 per senior per month in 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If the Senate bill passed (and the House bill is similar on this point), that would be reduced to about $42 per month. But under no circumstances would any senior receive less in benefits than the other 78 percent of the Medicare population.

We’re sure seniors who see benefit cuts of any kind won’t be happy about it. But to characterize these as "massive cuts," and our article (as well as CBO’s analysis) as a "grave warning" is simply rubbish.

Now, you might be wondering, why didn't Factcheck.org simply raise this issue directly with Boehner's office? Maybe it was just an innocent mistake, the type Beohner's staff could quickly correct.

Or maybe not:

We asked Boehner’s office to take our name out of the document, but spokesman Michael Steel said: "I’m not inclined to do so," and invited us to send an e-mail further making our case.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-treatment/boehner-not-inclined-tell-the-truth