Republicans to Sebelius: Stop saying Medicare benefits are ‘free’

Six Republicans senators are demanding that the Obama administration stop saying that Medicare provides "free benefits."

In a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFormer health chiefs: Stabilizing ObamaCare markets benefits Republicans OPINION | 5 big ideas to halt America's opioid epidemic Aligning clinical and community resources improves health MORE, the senators took issue with a mid-December statement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that was titled, “More than 25 million Medicare beneficiaries received free preventive services through November 2013.”

Other than the title, the CMS release largely referred to the services as being received at “no cost” to the consumer.

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“Like previous press releases out of your Department, this press release selectively highlights a small expansion of services to seniors with fee-for-service Medicare, and suggests the benefits are 'free,' ” the senators wrote. “Everyone knows there is no such thing as a free lunch — someone is paying for these benefits. So they are not truly ‘free.’ ”

The letter was signed by Sens. Tom CoburnTom Coburn-trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground Al Franken: 'I make fun of the people who deserved it' The more complex the tax code, the more the wealthy benefit MORE (R-Okla.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneAviation panel recommends Trump roll back safety rules Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule Overnight Tech: Senate looks at self-driving trucks | Facebook to keep ads off fake news | House panel calls Equifax CEO to testify MORE (R-S.D.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: 'Good chance' Senate panel will consider bills to protect Mueller Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention MORE (R-Iowa), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziWe can't allow Congress to take earned benefits programs away from seniors Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats Senate panel might not take up budget until October MORE (R-Utah), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program Facebook under fire over Russian ads in election 5 senators call for US to shutter embassy in Havana MORE (R-N.C.), and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsNo. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight Overnight Healthcare: McConnell warns Senate not to block repeal debate | Insurers knock Cruz proposal | WH tries to discredit CBO | Lawmakers propose .1B NIH funding boost Trump: I’ll be ‘very angry’ if Senate doesn’t pass ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-Ks.).

The senators asked Sebelius to change that CMS press release, amend any previous releases that might refer to the Medicare services as free and to abstain from using that term in future statements.

The Republicans also took issue with the CMS claim that ObamaCare “makes Medicare stronger and improves the wellbeing of millions of beneficiaries.”

“The release selectively highlights a small expansion of services law to seniors with fee-for-service Medicare provided by … ObamaCare, while neglecting to fully inform readers about the $716 billion cut from Medicare plans and providers that was spent on new government programs under the health care law,” the senators wrote.

The letter cites Medicare’s chief actuary, who has said that unless Congress intervenes to restore some payments to doctors and insurance companies, the cuts would cause some providers to “end their participation in the program,” possibly “jeopardizing” access for some beneficiaries.