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 SebeliusObama's health secretary to be first female president of American University Leaked email: Podesta pushed Tom Steyer for Obama’s Cabinet Romney: Trump victory 'very possible' 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 CoburnCoburn: Trump's tweets aren't presidential The road ahead for America’s highways Rethinking taxation MORE (R-Okla.), John ThuneJohn ThuneLow-income consumer broadband credits mean competitiveness, choice and compassion ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (R-S.D.), Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP senator grilled over DeVos vote during town hall Big Pharma must address high drug prices ­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate MORE (R-Iowa), Mike EnziMike EnziA guide to the committees: Senate GOP senators unveil bill to give Congress control of consumer bureau budget Grizzlies, guns, and games of gotcha: How the left whiffed on Betsy DeVos MORE (R-Utah), Richard BurrRichard BurrTrump's pick for intel chief to get hearing next week A guide to the committees: Senate Juan Williams: Senate GOP begins to push Trump away MORE (R-N.C.), and Pat RobertsPat RobertsA guide to the committees: Senate Angst in GOP over Trump's trade agenda CNN's Acosta: 'The fix is in' on who gets to ask Trump questions 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.