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Huelskamp's Healthcare Update

By Alan Jilka
Opinion | May 7, 2012

SALINA, Kan. - This past week my congressman's update on the federal health care law arrived in my mailbox. In small print under the return address was a note saying that the mailing was "prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense." The report and its disingenuous claims require further scrutiny.

Take, for example, his "fact" that President Obama's health care law raids $500 billion from Medicare. This sleight of hand assumes, maybe correctly, that many folks don't know the difference between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare.
The Kaiser Foundation put out an excellent "fact sheet" on Medicare Advantage in November of 2011. Under these plans seniors can opt to obtain coverage through private insurance companies. Twenty-five percent of seniors nationwide do so. The percentage of those in this age group in Kansas is ten percent, a number less in rural areas. For a number of reasons, some having to do with administrative costs and others with benefits such as subsidized gym memberships these plans have become much more costly for the federal government.

The Affordable Care Act doesn't cut any funds from traditional Medicare (also known as original Medicare), which covers over ninety percent of seniors in the 1st district. All of the cuts come from Medicare Advantage. The impression left by the mailer that the Affordable Care Act guts Medicare is patently false.

The congressman then goes on to cite "non-partisan Congressional Budget Office" statistics that the law will cause Medicaid costs to increase $343 Billion in the next decade. He conveniently ignores that the same CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act itself will reduce our federal deficit by approximately $940 Billion over the same decade. The CBO is either a credible source of information or not. Which is it congressman?

He continues and criticizes the implementation of an Independent Payment Advisory Board to try to cut down the abuse of Medicare and set guidelines on what should or should not be covered. The Board is patterned after the BRACC Commissions set up by former President Reagan and used successfully by successive Presidents to depoliticize decisions on military base closures. The congressman claims that this provision of the law will "end Medicare as we know it."

Of course nowhere in the mailer, or any of his previous ones has the congressman explained or defended his vote last year for "Ryancare," Congressman Paul Ryan's proposal to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. Given that the 1st District has one of the highest median ages of any congressional district in the country, many of his constituents would likely be interested in an explanation of their congressman's vote to "end Medicare as we know it." Ryan's proposal was so swiftly and roundly discredited that Senate Republicans protested vociferously when Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the bill to a vote in the Senate.

Manipulations of the facts continue. He again cites CBO statistics estimating that as many as 20 Million people could lose their employer-based insurance, neglecting to mention that they would be shifted to other plans.

It would be nice to receive a mailing from one's federal legislator with the genuine intent to inform on what's happening in Washington. But the congressman's single-issue mailing here is nothing more than campaign mailer at public expense. The cost of preparing, printing and mailing a fancy brochure on expensive card stock to every household in the district runs to nearly a hundred thousand dollars. The congressman's frequent rants about wasteful federal spending clearly don't extend to the unlimited franking privileges enjoyed by federal lawmakers.

The mailer includes a card with three questions that can be returned, making it appear he's interested in constituent feedback. One of the questions asks whether an individual approves taking $500 billion from Medicare to pay for the new health care law. If you don't understand the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and decide to return the card saying you oppose the cuts, you're ripe for another mailer soliciting a campaign contribution.

At least the congressman will have to pay for that mailing himself.


12 Comments

We have the same problem in the 4th District with Mike Pompeo. His e-mail updates are so full of misinformation, distortions, and outright lies, it's impossible to know what's really going in Congress. The people who vote for these characters are shooting themselves in the foot. They're going to be upset when their Medicare goes away.


"the same CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act itself will reduce our federal deficit by approximately $940 Billion over the same decade."

Got a source/citation for this? All I can find with that figure is one that says the Act will cost $940 billion over a decade, not that it would reduce the deficit by that amount.

Additionally, the initial CBO estimate of savings was skewed by having 10 years of revenue with only 6 years of expenses for the Act due to its delayed implementation.


It is inexcusable for polititions of either stripe to publish false analysis and sometimes just plain false statements, as to contents in bills and their opponents past on the campaign trail.

Huelscamp, Pompeo, and Brownback are guilty of using those tactics as a normal course in their public relations. They get free political advertising on editorial pages and for the congressmen they get franking privileges and mail delivery at public expense.

Professional journalists and polititions should be held to much stricter standards than the general public who express themselves with letters to the editor or on bloggs. That doesn't excuse us from just plain misrepresenting what we do know. But, we don't have access to staff and professional researchers like the professional journalists and polititions.


"Professional journalists and polititions should be held to much stricter standards than the general public who express themselves with letters to the editor or on bloggs."

I don't agree. There is but one standard - truth, and everyone has to be held to it. My reaction to mistakes or falsehoods is going to vary based on the status of the speaker and what appears wrong.

This looks to me to just be a bad figure with no ill intent. I'd like to see the real number because it'll lead to a better discussion and better decisions.


"Professional journalists and polititions should be held to much stricter standards than the general public who express themselves with letters to the editor or on bloggs."

I don't agree. There is but one standard - truth, and everyone has to be held to it. My reaction to mistakes or falsehoods is going to vary based on the status of the speaker and what appears wrong.

This looks to me to just be a bad figure with no ill intent. I'd like to see the real number because it'll lead to a better discussion and better decisions.


"no ill intent" ? If you don't think the misrepresentation of facts by professionals who know or have access to truth of what is in the bills are not intentional, you are quite naive! As I have stated, my opinion is based on unofficial sources of information, quite often provided by polititions who intentionly misrepresent facts. As regards 'Obama Care', I have read specific parts of the bill and find the facts being twisted by those who oppose the bill. 'Death Panels' is a good example. Rationing health care is another example. If you don't think the present system of insurance and economics isn't effectively rationing health care, you are not very observant. My doctor has mentioned medications that she thinks would work best, but says the insurance company will not approve. Is the insurance mogul more knowledgable about medication and individual patients needs?

And, if you don't think Huelscamp and probably most of our government representatives aren't misusing their 'franking privileges', I wonder what you think is proper use of your tax dollars and campaign methods.


I don't think I was clear - my no ill intent comment was directed at Alan's $940 billion figure.

His whole post is about distorted figures and one-sided arguments coming from Huelskamp - and yet I'm supposed to just overlook his apparently incorrect figure?

I don't care if a person is the president, a professional journalist, or a schmoe with a blog - publishing bad information in an attempt to make a point is unacceptable.

"My doctor has mentioned medications that she thinks would work best, but says the insurance company will not approve. Is the insurance mogul more knowledgable about medication and individual patients needs?"

This is off topic, but you are conflating HEALTHCARE with INSURANCE. Do you think your doctor knows more about the fiscal health of your insurance provider than they do? These are separate decisions. Doc is free to prescribe anything he thinks is appropriate - insurance company free to write policies that either cover or don't cover particular drugs/services - you are free to change insurance or get your doctor to prescribe an alternative or to pay for it yourself.

You do realize Medicare/Medicaid also have certain drugs/services they won't pay for, right? Does the government know better than your doctor what's the right course of treatment for you?

Be real Ken. Anytime you get somebody other than yourself involved in helping to pay for something that benefits you - there's a good chance that someone is going to have a different idea of whats necessary and proper than you do.


Perhaps you would like to clarify yourself a little further. Which figures are obviously incorrect or exaggerated? What are the correct figures?

An exact quote from Alan's blogg, "The congressman then goes on to cite "non-partisan Congressional Budget Office" statistics that the law will cause Medicaid costs to increase $343 Billion in the next decade. He conveniently ignores that the same CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act itself will reduce our federal deficit by approximately $940 Billion over the same decade. The CBO is either a credible source of information or not. Which is it congressman?"

Medicaid and Medicare costs won’t increase, due to increasing age of the population? No one seems to put that into the predictions.

Where do you get your figures, Schyler? It would be nice if you'd share.

And, Health Care and Insurance are very much involved with most people's welfare. Very few of us can forgo insurance and buy our health care on our own. If I had never taken out insurance, either health, life, or vehicle, I would be dollars ahead. However, just one unplanned emergency would have bankrupted me, at different times. Cash flow is the name of the game. Insurance premiums are prepayment to make money available when needed. A kind of forced savings. Insurance companies always take in more money in premiums and interest on investment of their reserves than they pay out.

The Dr.s provide services for a fee. The insurance companies provide service and financing for a fee. There is little incentive for either one to collaborate together to save the consumer any money. The drug companies have very little concern about the skyrocketing prices of their products, as long as Dr.s will continue to prescribe and insurance companies continue to pay. Drug companies cut deals with Dr.s and the insurance companies.

The Constitution doesn’t say anything about consumer protection. But, do you not think that technology and science hasn’t advanced far beyond where the ordinary citizen can evaluate all the products that are being thrown on the market? The Constitution does infer that the government is responsible for the welfare of the citizens. That requires protection, not only, from foreign countries but also from misrepresentation of services and products from within our borders.

It is my opinion, no I can’t quote statistics to prove my point, that the Republicans are trying to cut government oversight of product safety and service integrity.



Ken - the number that is wrong is the $940 billion in savings over a decade. My very firat comment says this, and provides a link to back it up (are you even reading what I write?). The bill costs - not saves - $940 billion (gross, not net of revenues).

People are welcome to their own opinions, they are not welcome to their own facts, though I'm not holding my breath for a correction from Alan at this point.



Ken - the number that is wrong is the $940 billion in savings over a decade. My very firat comment says this, and provides a link to back it up (are you even reading what I write?). The bill costs - not saves - $940 billion (gross, not net of revenues).

People are welcome to their own opinions, they are not welcome to their own facts, though I'm not holding my breath for a correction from Alan at this point.


Alan--I got the same mailing from Mike Pompeo. Thanks to your blog, I intend to respond to him with some facts. The Health Care Reform Act will allow people who have never had health insurance coverage to be able to afford it. It will take the power of deciding who gets services away from the for-profit insurance companies and put it in the hands of hte patients. The Health Care Reform Act may be costly, but it's not nearly as costly as what we're paying for health care now, either directly or indirectly.

Diane


In reviewing the matter I find that Schlyer has a bit of a point in his critique of my numbers. The CBO initially estimated that the Affordable Care Act would cut the deficit by approx. $143 Billion in the first decade and by as much as a Trillion annually "within two decades." On 3/15/12 Ezra Klein wrote in the Washington Post that it is now believed that the deficit will be reduced by at least $50 Billion more than originally estimated.
Thank you Schyler. I do not feel, however, that this mistake changes my essential point that Huelskamp manipulates (or ignores) the facts for his purposes. For example, he conveniently ignored the same CBO's estimates of increased deficits when he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Something else bothers me about the mailer. Huelskamp either doesn't know the difference between traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage (in which case he is woefully uninformed for a congressman), or, he does know the difference and is cynically playing on the ignorance of his constituents for political advantage. Either option is disturbing.
So I stand by my premise that this mailer wasn't sent out to "inform." And anyone interested in controlling the deficit should be supportive of Health care reform. I believe that is a central reason for Bob Dole's support.


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