The Florida Republican repeated his false claim that Democrats had slashed the program by $280 billion moments after he called for finding other ways to reduce its cost.
CNN host Kaitlan Collins on Thursday pressed Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) on his recent claims that Democrats had "cut Medicare" by $280 billion — when in reality the law merely reduced the price the program is charged for prescription drug benefits.
The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act achieved an estimated $280 billion in savings by allowing the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to purchase medications in bulk.
After Collins asked Scott if he supported cuts to "mandatory spending, for the social safety net," he initially answered, "No. And you don't have to. I mean look, we, people paid into the Social Security program. We've got to make sure we preserve that. Medicare, preserve it."
Scott then argued that the government could find savings in Medicare's "delivery system" by making the program more efficient: "I was in the hospital business, I know there's ways we could do that more efficiently. But benefits? No way."
Collins then asked about Scott's false claims that the Inflation Reduction Act included cuts to Medicare cuts.
"They didn't cut it," she said. "Basically, it was part of the being able to negotiate the prescription drug prices. So changing what they are spending on it is not equal to cuts, right?"
Scott stuck to his claim, answering, "Okay, so if that's true, then every time you figure out how to save money on Medicare, that's not a cut. But that's not what the Democrats say."
He argued that by paying less money to drug companies, the government was cutting Medicare benefits because the industry would be less able to develop new medications:
If you cut $280 billion out of what you spend, which is what they did, that's called a cut, and what it's going to do, it is going to take — it's going to make sure those companies don't have the money to invest in new life-saving drugs. That's a cut. And that is a potential, most likely a reduction in the benefit that a Medicare recipient is going to get, a life-saving drug that could save their life. That's a, to me, that's a cut.
Collins closed the portion of her interview by pointing out that CNN fact-checkers had determined that Scott's framing of a $280 billion cut "is nonsense, they believe."
Scott's mention of his previous work in the "hospital business" refers to his tenure as CEO of Columbia/HCA Healthcare, a chain of hundreds of for-profit hospitals and surgery centers, from 1987 to 1997. Over that period, his company engaged in what was at the time the largest Medicare fraud perpetrated in American history, according to PolitiFact.
He stepped down after the fraud was exposed, and the company paid $1.7 billion in fines. Scott denied any direct knowledge of the wrongdoing, but said in 2010, "There's no question that mistakes were made and as CEO, I have to accept responsibility for those mistakes."
His suggestion — that, by negotiating lower drug prices, the government will cause a significant reduction in the number of new drugs developed — is highly misleading.
According to a Jan. 24 explainer piece published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that just one fewer drug will likely be developed in the next decade and just 12 fewer will be created in the two decades after that as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act:
CBO estimates that the drug pricing provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, including but not limited to the new Medicare drug price negotiation program, will have a very modest impact on the number of new drugs coming to market in the U.S. over the next 30 years: 13 fewer out of 1,300, or a reduction of 1% (about 1 fewer drug over the 2023-2032 period, about 5 fewer drugs in the subsequent decade, and about 7 fewer drugs in the decade after that).
While Scott has claimed he does not want to see any reductions to benefits for Social Security and Medicare recipients, his own plan would imperil the very existence of both programs.
His "Rescue America" package, which he proposed prior to the 2022 midterms and is continuing to tout now, includes a provision that would make every single federal law automatically expire every five years.
The sunsetting provision would mean that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and all other laws would be effectively repealed unless a frequently divided Congress were able to agree to renew them twice each decade.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.