POLITICO’s Pulse is reporting that Republicans are objecting to a new flier sent out by CMS informing Medicare beneficiaries about how the new health care law will improve the program. “This goes beyond propaganda and is blatantly political. If this document is really about Medicare, then why is there information in there about 26-year-olds being able to stay on their parents’ policies?” Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) asked. “The brochure fails to inform seniors that the president’s new law cuts $550 billion from their Medicare,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) added. From the flier:
The Affordable Care Act passed by Congress and signed by President Obama this year will provide you and your family greater savings and increased quality health care. It will also ensure accountability throughout the health care system so that you, your family, and your doctor — not insurance companies — have greater control over your care. These are needed improvements that will keep Medicare strong and solvent. Your guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t change — whether you get them through Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan. Instead, you will see new benefits and cost savings, and an increased focus on quality to ensure that you get the care you need.
Democrats are pointing out that CMS sent similar fliers to seniors after Congress passed the Medicare Part D legislation during the Bush administration, but that’s not the GOP’s only flip-flop. Last year, the GOP defended Humana’s alleged use of federal dollars and data to send deceptive fliers warning Medicare customers that health reform will cut “important benefits and services” and urging them to call Congress to register their concern. Republicans rallied behind the insurer and accused Democrats of “trying to keep seniors in the dark about the consequences of congressional Democrats’ costly government-run health care bills.”
Camp, who is now so critical of the CMS fliers, demanded “to know whether anyone from the White House was involved in the decision to tell companies to stop using taxpayer-subsidized communication to terrify seniors into opposing health reform.” “I have never seen anything like this and I question if politics was the deciding factor,” Camp said at the time. Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) also registered outrage, noting “You don’t lose your rights because you happen to sell insurance for heaven’s sake.”
Ultimately, CMS backed down from its investigation of Humana and issued a guidance reminding companies that they “can’t use federal dollars to pay for the mailings or federal data.” But the hypocrisy is fairly stark — the GOP will go to bat for ‘free speech’ if it supports their talking points, but attack it if it doesn’t comport to their particular “propaganda.”