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Health Alert | Seniors Know More than Polltakers

Perhaps you saw the headline: "Most Seniors Misinformed...[About] Key Provisions of the Affordable Care Act." Yet on closer inspection, it turns out that the seniors - who are about to get taken to the cleaners under ObamaCare - knew a lot more than the polltakers.

It reminds me of last summer's townhall meetings, when members of Congress claimed their constituents were confused and misled. Turned out, the voters often were much better informed than their representatives.

On the answers to the polling questions, you be the judge.

 


Q:

"The new law will result in future cuts to your basic Medicare benefits."


Seniors' answer:
Polltakers' "correct response":

True
False


Q:

"The health care reform law will cut Medicare payments for doctors."


Seniors' answer:
Polltakers' "correct response":

True
False


Q:

"Under the new health reform law, Medicare Advantage plans will cut benefits and increase premiums."

Seniors' answer:
Polltakers' "correct response":

True
Don't know


Q:

"The new law is projected to increase the federal deficit over the next 10 years and beyond."

Seniors' answer:
Polltakers' "correct response":

True
False

Warning: The wording of each of these statements is tricky, as though intentionally prepared by a shyster lawyer trying to pull a fast one. So the seniors might be in trouble if they went to court. But to any fair-minded person the response of the seniors is far more accurate than the polltakers' "correct response." Interestingly, among seniors who said they are "very familiar with the law," the percent disagreeing with the polltakers' view was substantially higher than among seniors generally.

All of which raises the question: Who paid for this poll and what is their motivation? Answer: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and if you go to their Web site, their motivation is clear: They are conducting a national campaign to convince seniors that what is bad is good and vice versa.

Nowhere at NCOA's Web site, for example, will you discover that:

  • More than half the cost of health reform will be paid for by $523 billion in Medicare spending cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
  • More than $200 billion in spending cuts will come from Medicare Advantage plans alone.
  • More than half of the seniors expected to participate in Medicare Advantage (7.4 million Americans) will lose their coverage entirely over the next 10 years, according to Medicare's chief actuary.
  • An estimated one out of seven hospitals may go out of business and doctors may not take new patients because of cuts in their fees, according to Medicare's chief actuary.
  • Health reform will raise additional revenue through new taxes on drugs and medical devices, items which are disproportionately used by seniors and the disabled.

On restraining the growth of Medicare spending, the law does give an independent agency more power than any previous commission to rein in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals and other suppliers. But, as Joe Newhouse wrote in Health Affairs the other day:

  • To follow its mandate, the independent agency would have to cause Medicare fees to fall further and further behind what private insurers pay.
  • This means that seniors and the disabled would look increasingly less attractive to providers than higher paying private sector patients, including a lot of the newly insured.
  • In the worse case, Medicare enrollees could find they are no better off than the Medicaid enrollees who have to rely on community health centers and safety net hospitals for their care.

Newhouse envisions a world in which seniors who can afford to do so will pay out-of-pocket for concierge services while those who cannot afford such fees will get care that increasingly looks like Medicaid. (Ironically, a number of studies suggest that care for Medicaid enrollees is not only inferior to the privately insured, it is even inferior to the care received by the uninsured!)

John_GoodmanJohn C. Goodman is president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis. The Wall Street Journal and the National Journal, among other publications, have called him the "Father of Health Savings Accounts," and the Media Research Center credits him, along with former Sen. Phil Gramm and columnist Bill Kristol with playing the pivotal role in the defeat of the Clinton Administration's plan to overhaul the U.S. health care system. He is also the Kellye Wright Fellow in health care. The mission of the Wright Fellowship is to promote a more patient-centered, consumer-driven health care system.

Dr. Goodman's health policy blog is the only right-of-center health care blog on the Internet. It is the only place where pro-free enterprise, private sector solutions to health care problems are routinely examined and debated by top health policy experts throughout the country-conservative, moderate and liberal.   

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