Judd Gregg’s Halloween-Themed Op-Ed Spins Web Of Lies About Health Care Reform

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)

Outgoing Republican Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) has penned a Halloween-themed editorial advancing some new myths about the Affordable Care Act, all the while implicitly conceding that Republicans will not be able to repeal the law. “Caught in a cobweb of false promises, the American people were fed a story about how health care reform would insure everyone, allow people to keep their own insurance policies and reduce health care spending while improving quality,” Gregg writes. “Sadly, these were fantasies masquerading as fact. The scary tale that follows needs no skeletons or vampires; statistics alone can frighten you.”

Some of Gregg’s ‘scary tale’ has already been debunked by Saturday’s very prescient New York Times editorial and, as it turns out, Gregg’s own TV appearances:

MYTH — HIGHER PREMIUMS: “President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats promised us that the new law would lower premiums. It has not. Premiums in 2011 will rise more than 12 percent for employer-sponsored coverage, according to a recent Hewitt Associates study.”

FACT: That Hewitt study actually found that the new consumer protections in the health care law are at most responsible for 1% to 2% of the 12% increase that’s due to health care inflation and adverse selection, a point Gregg conceded during an appearance on Fox Business last week.”Premiums went up by an average of 8 to 9 percent, it’s estimated that 1 to 2% of that is directly a result of the health care bill,” Gregg told Neil Cavuto.

MYTH — LOSS OF EXISTING COVERAGE: “We were promised that, if we liked our coverage, we could keep it. But we were misled. The Obama administration recently revealed that employees of nearly 70 percent of U.S. businesses, who get coverage through their job, may lose their current health care plan because of the new regulations.”

FACT: Insurers and self insured employers make policy adjustments all the time and over the last few years they’ve been slowly shifting the risks and costs of coverage to the individual. Regulations in the Affordable Care Act will discourage employers and insurers from stiffing beneficiaries with very high costs and insufficient benefits and shield consumers from drastic benefit cuts or cost shifts. If Republicans are successful in repealing these requirements, insurers and employers will be able to avoid abiding by the popular consumer protections, no matter how dramatically they cut benefits, raise co-pays, or lower employer contributions.

MYTH — MCDONALD’S DROPPING COVERAGE: “These workers may lose access to their current benefits because the government will prohibit their employers from offering a plan that is affordable and provides substantive benefits for working families.”

FACT: As the New York Times explained on Saturday, “The administration has granted some 30 waivers for one year (Rush Limbaugh promptly accused the administration of allowing these employers to “break the law”) and has signaled willingness to smooth out other bumps on the road toward full reform.” Republicans, however, are intent on criticizing the administration for addressing this problem.

MYTH — SENIORS AT RISK: “Even seniors are at risk. The Obama administration announced that nearly one million seniors will lose their current Medicare Advantage plans next year.”

FACT: CMS actually projects that 99.7% of seniors will continue to have access to a Medicare Advantage plan and that only a small number of fee-for-service plans will leave the market. This is because of a 2008 bipartisan bill that required issuers to establish provider networks, not the Affordable Care Act. The bill was vetoed by President Bush, but passed again the Senate with a two-thirds majority. Gregg did not support the legislation.

MYTH — INCREASES HEALTH COSTS: “Even the Obama administration’s own actuaries found that health care spending will increase under the new law, consuming an even larger share of our nation’s fragile economy. ”

FACT: This is not what “the Obama administration’s own actuaries found.” They concluded that beginning in 2014, as 30 million+ individuals begin receiving health care coverage and visiting doctors, health care expenditures will naturally increase. Costs will continue to grow higher than current law until around 2015, at which point the Medicare savings, the excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, and the Medicare payment board will cause costs to “decelerate.” Moreover, the actuaries predict that as a result of these savings, Medicare spending will decline $86.4 billion from previous projections due to reforms. “Specifically, average annual Medicare spending growth is anticipated to be 1.4 percentage points slower for 2012–19 than we projected in February 2010. By 2019, it is projected to grow 7.7 percent—0.9 percentage point more slowly than we projected in February 2010,” the report concludes.

MYTH — INCREASES THE DEBT: “The current pace of government expansion and federal spending is unaffordable and unsustainable. The national debt will double in five years and triple in 10 under the Democrats’ spending plans.”

FACT: The CBO estimates that the law will produce “$143 billion in net budgetary savings over the 2010-2019 period” and reported that repealing the law would increase the debt by that amount.

Significantly, Gregg does not call for repealing the law, as he has in months past. He merely writes, “It is my hope that the next Congress consists of members who will pass reforms that responsibly address our health care needs while improving the economy.” The language is part of an ongoing GOP campaign to temper expectations for repeal.