Republicans are mischaracterizing an overall 1% increase in payments to insurers under the Medicare Advantage program as cuts.
Fox News on Thursday published a column written by Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-IA) that falsely claims that it is President Joe Biden, not Republicans in Congress, who are pushing for cuts to Medicare.
"During his recent State of the Union address, President Joe Biden shamelessly lied to the American people about the priorities of the House Republican Conference in the 118th Congress. His sorry accusations – while entirely predictable – couldn't be farther from the truth," Feenstra writes. "Ironically, the only person who has approved steep cuts to Medicare this year is none other than President Joe Biden himself."
The Iowa Republican cited a notice from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in claiming that "the Biden administration has proposed an average 2.3 percent payment cut to Medicare Advantage."
Medicare Advantage, Part C of the Medicare program, allows recipients to opt in to a private insurance plan instead of "Original Medicare" for their coverage. The plans are operated by nongovernmental insurance companies, but agree to follow certain coverage guidelines.
On Feb. 1, CMS announced a new rule that would allow the government to recover the money it overpays to those insurance companies. It also said it would reduce some of its specific Medicare Advantage payments to insurers, but predicted an overall increase of 1.03% in the total amount it expects to send them in 2024.
Insurance industry groups, including the trade group AHIP, have opposed the changes and framed them as a 2.27% cut to Medicare Advantage.
But CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure disputed this during a press call last week: "We think it is important not to cherry-pick the numbers. When we look at all the elements, we do see a net positive, so an increase of a little over 1%."
This has not stopped Feenstra and other Republicans from framing the changes as Biden cutting Medicare.
"Strengthening and protecting? More like weakening and attacking," tweeted Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern on Feb. 9. "Mr. President, let me remind you: you just cut billions from Medicare Advantage. Stop lying."
"Newsflash: President Biden is cutting Medicare, not Republicans," charged Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan the same day. "Fact: He's slashing more than $3 billion from Medicare Advantage (used by over 50% of seniors) next year."
After Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted, "It's President Biden who is proposing to cut Medicare Advantage, a program used by almost 4 in 10 Arkansas seniors" on Feb. 6, PolitiFact called the claim "false." The writers noted that the "reductions will be offset by other changes that are expected to yield a 1% increase in payments to insurers per person in 2024."
"To me, that is simply running the program better and more efficiently to protect the integrity of the federal funds being used for it," Paul Ginsburg, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, told the fact-checking outlet.
"My read of the evidence is that reductions in payments to Medicare Advantage plans are largely borne by the plans themselves, either through lower profits or cost reductions," Matthew Fiedler, a senior fellow at the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, told PolitiFact.
While Republicans in Congress have objected to Biden's warnings that many in the party have proposed sunsetting or drastically cutting safety net programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the president's statements are true.
Just last year, the Republican Study Committee, made up of 172 right-wing members of the House Republican caucus, released a "Blueprint to Save America'' budget proposal for the 2023 fiscal year that included a call to raise the age of eligibility for people who have already paid into Medicare.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.