Commentary: Scare tactics over Medicare need to stop

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose the federal health care reform bills, such as inadequate cost controls and concerns about increased government intervention and bureaucracy. So Republican lawmakers don't need to resort to exaggerated claims about how reform "would be devastating to seniors," as a news release from Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., stated.

But many GOP senators spent much of last week trying to scare seniors by saying that their benefits would be cut — even though FactCheck.org determined that such claims are "outright false."

The lawmakers noted how the Senate reform bill would attempt to reduce Medicare spending by nearly $500 billion over the next 10 years.

"These cuts will hurt Medicare beneficiaries, our Kansas seniors who have worked their entire lives with the promise that this program would support them through their older age," Roberts said.

About $120 billion of the cuts would be to private Medicare Advantage plans. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said it "would be unwise and unfair to strip seniors of such an efficient program."

However, the private plans cost taxpayers about 14 percent more than regular Medicare, and Medicare Advantage is not widely used in Kansas. That's why Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and the Kansas Hospital Association support ending the taxpayer subsidy.

"Those unwarranted subsidies should be used to help fund whatever costs are associated with health reform programs," KHA president and CEO Thomas Bell wrote in a letter to Roberts.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Wichita Eagle.