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 SebeliusThe House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology Obama cabinet official: Clinton White House doubled down on 'abusive behavior' John Roberts has tough job of keeping faith in Supreme Court 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 CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnRepublicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks Republicans should know reviving earmarks is a political nightmare Former GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder MORE (R-Okla.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (R-S.D.), Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (R-Iowa), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziGOP is addressing tax cuts and a pension bill that could help coal miners Overnight Finance: Congress sends Trump funding bill to avert shutdown | WH sees 'tentative' deal on defense spending | GOP discovers corporate tax snag | Consumer bureau fight heats up | Apple could see B windfall from tax bill Overnight Finance: Congress sends Trump bill to avert shutdown | GOP discovers corporate tax snag | CFPB leadership battle rages MORE (R-Utah), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Senate Intel chairman: No need for committee to interview Bannon McConnell: Russia probe must stay bipartisan to be credible MORE (R-N.C.), and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Canada tamps down worries about US NAFTA withdrawal Canada worried Trump will withdraw from NAFTA: report 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.