Today, President Bush repeated a highly misleading claim about the Medicare prescription drug program: “Twenty-six million seniors so far have taken a look and said, I think it’s worthwhile to sign up.”
This figure is meant to convince the public that tens of millions of seniors have chosen to enroll in the prescription drug program. But as the Boston Globe reported a month ago, the “actual number of voluntary enrollees is much smaller, about 5 million.” The rest either were automatically enrolled or already had drug coverage from their former company’s health plan.
Ron Pollack of Families USA explained:
For an administration that frequently provides inaccurate information, the use of the 25 million enrollment figure breaks new ground in misleading propaganda. The only real number that is worth focusing on is the approximately 4 million to 5 million who now have prescription drug coverage who did not have it prior to the start of the program. Unfortunately, the administration is trying to mask that failure with an exaggerated number that has nothing to do with new people who gained coverage.
The facts haven’t gotten in the way of the White House spin, however. Below are just some of the times the administration has used the inflated number:
* More than 25 million people with Medicare now have prescription drug coverage, and hundreds of thousands more are enrolling each week. This new coverage is saving seniors money on their drug premiums. [2/25/06]
* And I want to tell you something. We’ve signed up 25 million people since January 1st for this new reformed system. And, sure, there’s some glitches. [2/17/06]
* About 25 million seniors have signed up for this new plan since January 1st. That’s a lot of folks in a quick period of time. [2/17/06]
* Millions of folks “” about 25 million people have signed up for the new Medicare benefit. [2/16/06]
* Twenty-four million Americans have now signed up to the new Medicare plan since January 1st. That’s a lot of folks, 24 million. Hundreds of thousands are enrolling each week. [2/15/06]
* Since the program went into effect six weeks ago, more than 24 million people with Medicare now have prescription drug coverage, and hundreds of thousands more are enrolling each week. [2/11/06]
Vice President Cheney:
* The program is underway, and some 24 million Americans are going to have benefits as a result of that and live longer and be healthier while they do it. [Newshour with Jim Lehrer, 2/7/06]
* I think there are some 26 million people that are already enrolled in the prescription drug benefit. There has been great progress made in terms of signing people up and enrolling them in the program. [Press Briefing, 3/13/06]