The man from Mayberry gets it wrong on Medicare (and other lies from the Obama Administration)

You may have heard at the end of last week that Andy Griffith was hired by the Obama Administration to assist in a $700k campaign aimed at selling ObamaCare to seniors:

Actor Andy Griffith has a new role: pitching President Barack Obama’s health care law to seniors in a cable television ad paid for by Medicare.

The TV star - whose role as sheriff of Mayberry made him an enduring symbol of small-town American values - tells seniors that “good things are coming” under the health care overhaul, including free preventive checkups and lower-cost prescriptions for Medicare recipients.

Here is the ad:

So what does make of this ad? Well, it’s not accurate:

In a new TV spot from the Obama administration, actor Andy Griffith, famous for his 1960s portrayal of the top law enforcement official in the fictional town of Mayberry, N.C., touts benefits of the new health care law. Griffith tells his fellow senior citizens, “like always, we’ll have our guaranteed [Medicare] benefits.” But the truth is that the new law is guaranteed to result in benefit cuts for one class of Medicare beneficiaries — those in private Medicare Advantage plans.

The White House released the ad on the 45th anniversary of the Medicare program, and said it would run nationally on cable TV networks. Griffith, whose “Andy Griffith Show” was a TV comedy hit at the time Medicare was first enacted in 1965, explains the “good things” that the new health care law will mean for Medicare beneficiaries.

“This year, like always, we’ll have our guaranteed benefits,” he says. An announcement of the ad on the White House website reinforces that claim, saying: “Under the Affordable Care Act … Seniors guaranteed Medicare benefits will remain the same.” But the truth is, for millions of seniors, benefits won’t remain the same.

As we wrote most recently last December, about 10 million Medicare Advantage recipients could see their extra benefits reduced by an average of $43 per month, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And more recently, a detailed analysis by the Medicare program’s own chief actuary, Richard Foster, stated in April:

Medicare Actuary Richard Foster: The new provisions will generally reduce MA rebates to plans and thereby result in less generous benefit packages. We estimate that in 2017, when the MA provisions will be fully phased in, enrollment in MA plans will be lower by about 50 percent (from its projected level of 14.8 million under the prior law to 7.4 million under the new law).

Even the head of the White House Office of Health Reform, Nancy-Ann DeParle, acknowledges that Medicare Advantage benefits are going to be reduced. “I’m sure that some of those additional benefits have been nice,” the Wall Street Journal quoted her as saying in a July 25 report. “But I think what we have to look at here is what’s fair and what’s important for the strength of the Medicare program long term.”

Over at Cato at Liberty, Michael Cannon also notes a point that left out of their analysis of the ad: neglects to mention that ObamaCare will weaken the guarantee behind those “guaranteed” benefits, too.  Medicare’s chief actuary Richard Foster notes that ObamaCare ratchets down Medicare’s price controls, which will “possibly jeopardiz[e] access to care for beneficiaries.”  That’s not to say that the old price-control scheme is any better than the new one.  It just means that the Obama administration is being even less honest and more weaselly than says.

I’m not arguing against Medicare cuts here. I think it’s inevitable and desired, but the level of dishonesty from the Obama Administration on what the health care reform law does to Medicare is astounding. It’s highlighted even more  Philip Klein notes over at the American Spectator, who quoted from a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report that Medicare cuts cannot fund both ObamaCare and strengthen the entitlement program in a conference call with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Jonathan Blum, Director of CMS.

Klein reports that Sebelius replied:

[T]hat is not correct,” she said. “There are two different operating methods of looking at this, and the CMS actuary in the report that you cite differs in his strategic opinion from every accounting methodology that’s used for every other program in the federal budget, that has traditionally used for Medicare. And he has a different interpretation that is not agreed upon by either the Congressional Budget Office or the OMB or traditionally in Congress.”

Set aside the irony that in a conference call held to highlight CMS estimates on Medicare, Sebelius was questioning CMS methodology. Her statement that the CBO had taken a different view on this is demonstrably false. On several occasions, the CBO has determined that you can’t double-count Medicare savings.

This why the true cost of ObamaCare was often put over $2 trillion.

If this were a private company pulling this type of accounting tricks, Democrats would be holding congressional hearings and slamming the executives in the media. But instead, this is treated as serious policy in Washington.

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