Critical Condition

Sebelius Caught Engaging in “Misinformation”

According to Politico (h/t Igor Volsky), a Kathleen Sebelius that once claimed that there would be “more” Medicare Advantage plans thanks to Obamacare, despite the law’s significant cuts to the program, has retreated from that statement, claiming instead that “there will be more meaningful choices”:

The Department of Health and Human Services quietly changed the web version of a speech in which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described how the health care overhaul is going to affect Medicare Advantage plans, a controversial section of the law, after aides to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) challenged its accuracy.

Sebelius had told an AARP conference in Orlando last week that next year “there will be more Medicare Advantage plans to choose from,” according to prepared remarks e-mailed to reporters and posted on HHS’s website on Monday. Grassley’s staff asked HHS to back up the statement, an aide to the senator, who has long been skeptical of Democrats’ claims about the health law’s impact, told POLITICO.

As Grassley’s office was drafting a formal letter to Sebelius questioning the claim, the speech text was altered on the HHS web site without noting the change. The statement about more Medicare Advantage plans was deleted and now reads, “there will be more meaningful choices…”

A second change was made as well. Sebelius said the law would result in “more” choices in Medicare Advantage. That was changed to “better” choices.

It’s a bit ironic, given that Sebelius has been blasting others as peddlers of “misinformation” for describing how PPACA will increase health-insurance premiums.

CMS also said that 0.3 percent of today’s Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will not have access to a plan next year. Another 5 percent of beneficiaries of it and stand-alone drug plans will need to find a new plan because their current one is not renewing its contract – moves that HHS attributed to 2008 legislation and not the reform law.

Grassley said the CMS information “directly contradicts” what Sebelius said in her speech.

“I find it particularly troubling that the section of your speech dedicated to setting the record straight and criticizing those concerned about the future of the MA program contains substantial misinformation and omissions,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Sebelius.

“Therefore, I request that you issue a prompt correction with AARP to all Medicare Advantage beneficiaries letting them know about fewer MA choices, higher costs and fewer benefits in the coming years.”

It’s not obvious why Sebelius insists on engaging in such political hackery, but if she wonders why PPACA is unpopular, she should gaze at her own navel.

Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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