Health Insurers Cherry-Pick Facts

The insurance industry trying to pick holes in the Democrats health care overhaul, is using facts selectively, while mixing accurate assertions and putting a misleading spin on them, embracing worst-case scenarios.

A 30-second TV spot run by America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's trade group in six states, even as the Senate Finance Committee was approving the overhaul of the legislation, we saw a series of beleaguered, elderly people on camera, as a soothing female voice accurately informed the Congress was proposing an over $100-billion cut from Medicare Advantage. Private firms administering the programme, provide extra services like eye and dental care, including serving about a quarter or 10-million Medicare beneficiaries.

Soon after, we hear the announcer add: 'The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says many seniors will see cuts in benefits,' even as '50% reduction in extra benefits,' flashes on the screen for three seconds. The words are true, but can be easily misunderstood making one think basic Medicare coverage is at risk.

The fact that Medicare Advantage has been targeted for savings, as it is far too expensive for the government to administer, as it costs about 14% more per recipient than regular Medicare, is not mentioned.

A favoured tactic of Washington interest groups, the ad arouses worry about the bill among a key constituency, which in this case happen to be elderly voters, even as the announcer concludes: 'Call your senators. Tell them we need health care reform that protects seniors.'

According to a top Medicare official, the premiums seniors are paying for Medicare Advantage plans are set to increase by an average of 25% next year i. e. from $32 to $39 a month, mostly because insurers responding to new federal requirements, have cancelled many plans that carried no premiums.

About 400-plans will be eliminated next year, as according to Medicare officials they have too few enrollees or the plans are much too similar to other plans.


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