Aw come on! We would have thought by now the $716 billion Medicare bogeyman was dead and buried. Maybe not. The Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune proves us wrong, dragging out that canard about Obama and the Dems cutting billions from Medicare. CJR and others have pointed out that the 2010 health reform law called for cuts in future reimbursements to hospitals and other healthcare providers and sellers of Medicare Advantage plans, not in basic benefits to seniors as the GOP has repeatedly suggested.

That news apparently has not reached the Daily Tribune, which reported on a conference call that Missouri’s Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill, had with reporters the other day. To help Medicare’s finances, McCaskill wants those with higher incomes to pay more for their healthcare, and she calls for rigorous controls on what Medicare buys, suggesting the program buys too many power chairs for seniors and disabled people with mobility problems. This being a he said/she said campaign piece, the Daily Tribune asked for response from McCaskill’s Republican challenger, Todd Akin.

The paper reported that Akin’s campaign said “McCaskill is at least partially responsible for the financial woes of the two programs.” How? A campaign spokesman said McCaskill’s ideas for Medicare are unrealistic, noted the Ryan proposal “is a reasonable plan,” and added that Akin is “open to other reasonable plans. I hardly see how reducing the number of motorized wheelchairs can balance out her vote to strip $700 billion from Medicare.”. The spokesman explained that McCaskill’s vote for the Affordable Care Act meant a vote for more than $700 billion in cuts to Medicare over 11 years.

Not so much. You have to hand it to the GOP. They stick to their talking points. But the paper should have known better than to repeat them without pushing back and offering a good helping of facts about that $700 billion. So what did Columbia readers get? Misleading information about Medicare cuts and pretty rudimentary explanation of what Ryan’s “reasonable” plan was all about. A good campaign story would have given an honest explanation of the cuts and more meat about Ryan’s proposal.

Related posts:

Medicare and the $716 billion bogeyman

Medicare, Paul Ryan, and beyond: a primer

Covering Medicare Archive


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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.