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 Sebelius, 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 Coburn (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Mike Enzi (R-Utah), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Pat Roberts (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.

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