60 Plus Association: “Senator Brown, Promises”

Unmoved by independent fact checkers’ incredulity over the blatant falsehoods in their previous ads, 60 Plus Association has once again deployed 60s singer Pat Boone in an ad that relies the same misinformation about the Affordable Care Act’s effect on Medicare. The ad focuses on the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel created by the health care law to find savings in Medicare, which 60 Plus describes as “a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare.” In reality, IPAB’s members must be confirmed by the Senate, and it is explicitly forbidden from cutting benefits or ‘rationing’ care.

IPAB Is Prohibited From Cutting Medicare Benefits

ACA Establishes An Independent, Senate-Confirmed Board (IPAB) To Find Additional Savings. As explained by the Kaiser Family Foundation: “The 2010 health reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also referred to as the ACA) establishes a new Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) with authority to issue recommendations to reduce the growth in Medicare spending, and provides for the Board’s recommendations to be considered by Congress and implemented by the Administration on a fast-track basis. […] As authorized by the health reform law, IPAB is an independent board housed in the executive branch and composed of 15 full-time members appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. [Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2011]

IPAB Proposals Will Be Implemented Unless Congress Finds Alternative Savings Or Supermajority Overturns Them. According to the Washington Post: “Beginning with fiscal 2015, if Medicare is projected to grow too quickly, the IPAB will make binding recommendations to reduce spending. Those recommendations will be sent to Capitol Hill at the beginning of each year, and if Congress doesn’t like them, it must pass alternative cuts — of the same size — by August. A supermajority of the Senate can also vote to amend the IPAB [spending] recommendations. If Congress fails to act, the secretary of Health and Human Services is required to implement the cuts by default.” [Washington Post5/8/11]

IPAB Cannot ‘Ration’ Care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: “The Board is prohibited from recommending changes that would reduce payments to certain providers before 2020, and is also prohibited from recommending changes in premiums, benefits, eligibility and taxes, or other changes that would result in rationing.” [Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2011]

Politifact: 60 Plus’ Comparison Of IPAB To IRS “Is Not Only Inaccurate, It’s Ridiculous.” From a PolitiFact analysis of a 60 Plus ad from November 2011 that also claimed IPAB is “a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare to pay for new government programs”: “PolitFact Ohio was puzzled by the ad’s comparison of IPAB to the Internal Revenue Service. IPAB is a 15-member board that’s supposed to suggest ways to reduce growth in Medicare spending. IRS is a mammoth government agency that collects taxes, enforces the tax laws set by Congress, and helps taxpayers understand and comply with those laws. So we asked 60 Plus spokesman Gerry Scimeca to explain the similarities. Scimeca said that both groups are intimidating bureaucracies that operate in secret and make decisions that dramatically affect the lives of average Americans. ‘IPAB will unilaterally render a sentence affecting all seniors on Medicare, impacting what remedies are available to seniors in need of health care, and giving bureaucrats immense power over available remedies and their costs,’ Scimeca said in an email. ‘Like the IRS, IPAB will operate in secret, will have vast powers to reach into our lives, and will have the final, irrefutable say on Medicare policy.’ But that description simply is not accurate. The IPAB appointments will be done in public. Members will be chosen by the president, with confirmation from the Senate. It would not have the power to issue edicts. Rather, it can only make recommendations. That those findings can be overruled by Congress hardly makes its rulings ‘unilateral’ or ‘final,’ as Scimeca says. The functions of IRS and IPAB are entirely unrelated. Some taxpayers may consider the IRS to be scary and 60 Plus may be scared by IPAB. But that does not make IPAB board a ‘Medicare IRS.’ […] The claim by 60 Plus Association is not only inaccurate, it’s ridiculous.” [PolitiFact.com, 11/7/11]

Benefits For Seniors In The Affordable Care Act

Closing The Donut Hole

“Donut Hole” Is Gap In Drug Coverage For Annual Costs From $2,830-6,440. From CNNMoney: “What’s the donut hole? In addition to a $310 deductible, Medicare beneficiaries pay 25% of their drug costs until the total reaches $2,830 for the year. Then, they fall into a coverage gap. At that point, enrollees must pay all costs out of pocket until their annual expenses exceed $6,440. After that, seniors pay 5% of drug costs for the rest of the year. [CNNMoney, 6/7/10]

Affordable Care Act Eliminates Coverage Gap By 2020. The Kaiser Family Foundation explains how the Affordable Care Act closes the “donut hole”:

• In 2010, Part D enrollees with spending in the coverage gap will receive a $250 rebate.

• Beginning in 2011, Part D enrollees who reach the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount on the total cost of their brand-name drugs in the gap, as agreed to by pharmaceutical manufacturers.

• Over time, Medicare will gradually phase in additional subsidies in the coverage gap for brand-name drugs (beginning in 2013) and generic drugs (beginning in 2011), reducing the beneficiary coinsurance rate in the gap from 100 percent to 25 percent by 2020. [KFF.org, March 2010]

The Donut Hole Got “Noticeably Smaller” In 2011, Benefitting Over 2 Million Seniors. As the Associated Press reported: “Medicare’s prescription coverage gap is getting noticeably smaller and easier to manage this year for millions of older and disabled people with high drug costs. […] The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates. […] More than 2 million beneficiaries already have gotten some help, discounts that have gone largely to middle-class seniors, because the poor are covered in the gap at taxpayer expense. [Associated Press, 11/27/11]

Expanding Preventive Care

Medicare Beneficiaries Receive Free Preventive Services, Annual Wellness Visits Under Health Care Law. As Kaiser Health News reported: “[T]he new health-care law will make it easier and cheaper for seniors to get preventive care. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to receive for free all preventive services and screenings that receive an A or B recommendation for seniors from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. That includes mammograms and colorectal cancer screening, bone mass measurement and nutritional counseling for people at risk for diet-related chronic diseases such as diabetes. Medicare beneficiaries will also get a free annual wellness visit under the new law. The visit will cover a number of services, including a health risk assessment and a review of the person’s functional and cognitive abilities. […] Currently, seniors in traditional Medicare pay 20 percent of the cost for most covered preventive services. [KaiserHealthNews.org, 8/10/10]

  • More Than 25 Million Seniors Have Received Free Preventive Services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports: “According to preliminary numbers, at least 25,720,996 million Americans took advantage of at least one free preventive benefit in Medicare in 2011, including the new Annual Wellness Visit.  This represents 73.3% of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.” [CMS.gov, 2/15/12]

[PAT BOONE:] Hi friend, I’m Pat Boone. A lot of promises were made regarding health care reform. But America’s seniors knew forcing a bill through Congress when Americans overwhelmingly opposed it would be disastrous, and we were right. [NARRATOR:] The new health care law creates a board of fifteen unelected bureaucrats. It’s like a Medicare IRS with the power to cut Medicare in order to pay for new government programs. [BOONE:] Call Senator Brown. Tell him unaccountable bureaucrats should never have the power to deny you the care you deserve. [60 Plus Association via YouTube.com, 8/14/12]