I don't want to be political here, but I need to correct some falsehoods out there, especially the one about President Obama "stealing $716 billion from Medicare.

Here's the truth, as told by the New York Times (with my comments in italics):

"In reality, the $716 billion is not a 'cut' in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.

"One big chunk of money will be saved by reducing unjustifiably high subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans that enroll many beneficiaries at a higher average cost than traditional Medicare. (That's right, we'll lower profits to private insurance companies as we send them 30 million new customers) Another will come from reducing the annual increases in federal reimbursements to health care providers — like hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies — to force the notoriously inefficient system to find ways to improve productivity.

"And a further chunk will come from fees or taxes imposed on drug makers, device makers and insurers — fees that they can surely afford since expanded coverage for the uninsured will increase their markets and their revenues (They don't want to give up any profits, nor do they want to be regulated in any way).

"The Republicans imply that the $716 billion in cuts will harm older Americans, but almost none of the savings come from reducing the benefits available for people already on Medicare. But if Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan were able to repeal the reform law, as they have pledged to do, that would drive up costs for many seniors — namely those with high prescription drug costs, who are already receiving subsidies under the reform law, and those who are receiving preventive services, like colonoscopies, mammograms and immunizations, with no cost sharing."

That's where the $716 billion is coming from, not from cuts in services to seniors, and the cuts that Romney and Ryan are proposing will cut into services big time, turning Medicaid into a voucher program that will leave many people with no other option than to die.

Another misconception I came across over the weekend was when a friend of mine from New Jersey posted on Facebook that a hospital there is no longer offering mammograms because of the Affordable Care Act. At least that's what the hospital is saying. I asked whether he could connect the dots for me and someone else posted, saying that the real problems will come in 2014 when "Obamacare" takes effect.

"It's not like millions of women suddenly got access to mammograms," she said.

Um, yes it is, I told her. The provision that anyone with insurance can get a mammogram (or colonoscopy or a number of other tests and screenings) with no out-of-pocket costs took effect earlier this month. What this means is that people with $5,000 deductibles can get these tests and the insurance companies have to pay the costs.

So, it's not that the hospitals and clinics have to pay, but the insurance companies do.

Now, I don't know why this hospital has stopped offering mammograms. I suspect the real reason isn't Obamacare, unless insurance companies have lowered the rate they will pay to below what the procedures cost to provide.

 


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