Senators: Government Brochure Sent to Medicare Recipients Is ‘Propaganda’

Published May 31, 2016

Senate Republicans strongly criticized a new brochure mailed to Medicare recipients by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) purporting to explain facets of the new health care law signed by President Barack Obama.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell described the mailed document as an “outrage” in a speech on the Senate floor.

“This is nothing short of government propaganda, paid for by the taxpayer,” McConnell said. “The administration’s own actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says seniors who use Medicare Advantage will lose benefits as a result of this bill. Yet the flyer they’re putting out says nothing about this. Instead, it implies nothing will change for these seniors.”

Brochure Outlines New Law

The brochure, which was produced and mailed at taxpayer expense, includes several claims that the new law will benefit seniors, and says Medicare recipients will experience no changes in coverage.

“The Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama this year will provide you and your family greater savings and increased quality health care,” the brochure claims. “These are needed improvements that will keep Medicare strong and solvent. Your guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t change—whether you get them through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Instead, you will see new benefits and cost savings, and an increased focus on quality to ensure that you get the care you need.”

Senators Demand Answers

In a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent on May 26, McConnell and fellow Republican Senators Jon Kyl (AZ), Lamar Alexander (TN), John Thune (SD), Charles Grassley (IA), Tom Coburn (OK), Mike Enzi (WY), and John Barrasso (WY) demanded Sebelius report who commissioned the letter and approved the expenditure to mail it.

“Given your recent actions to prohibit private companies from communicating with their clients about the potential ramifications of health reform, you can understand our concern about this double standard,” the senators wrote.

The senators were referring to an incident in September 2009 when CMS issued a gag order after private insurers began informing their customers about how the law could eliminate their benefits.

“The representations made in this brochure are objectively inaccurate and incomplete,” the Senators wrote. “They contradict a report by your own actuary as well as analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. This creates a situation where private companies are prohibited from communicating with their customers, while at the same time taxpayer dollars are being used to communicate a misleading message to millions of seniors.”

Benjamin Domenech ([email protected]) is managing editor of Health Care News.

Internet Info

Medicare and the New Health Care Law brochure:

Republican Senate Conference letter to Kathleen Sebelius: