Seniors Know More than Polltakers

Perhaps you saw the headline: “Most Seniors Misinformed…[About] Key Provisions of the Affordable Care Act.” Yet on closer inspection, it turns out that the seniors — who are about to get taken to the cleaners under ObamaCare — knew a lot more than the polltakers.

It reminds me of last summer’s townhall meetings, when members of Congress claimed their constituents were confused and misled. Turned out, the voters often were much better informed than their representatives.

On the answers to the polling questions, you be the judge.

“The new law will result in future cuts to your basic Medicare benefits.”

Seniors’ answer:
Polltakers’ “correct response”:


“The health care reform law will cut Medicare payments for doctors.”

Seniors’ answer:
Polltakers’ “correct response”:


“Under the new health reform law, Medicare Advantage plans will cut benefits and increase premiums.”

Seniors’ answer:
Polltakers’ “correct response”:

Don’t know

“The new law is projected to increase the federal deficit over the next 10 years and beyond.”

Seniors’ answer:
Polltakers’ “correct response”:


Warning: The wording of each of these statements is tricky, as though intentionally prepared by a shyster lawyer trying to pull a fast one. So the seniors might be in trouble if they went to court. But to any fair-minded person the response of the seniors is far more accurate than the polltakers’ “correct response.” Interestingly, among seniors who said they are “very familiar with the law,” the percent disagreeing with the polltakers’ view was substantially higher than among seniors generally.

All of which raises the question: Who paid for this poll and what is their motivation? Answer: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and if you go to their Web site, their motivation is clear: They are conducting a national campaign to convince seniors that what is bad is good and vice versa.

Nowhere at NCOA’s Web site, for example, will you discover that:

  • More than half the cost of health reform will be paid for by $523 billion in Medicare spending cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
  • More than $200 billion in spending cuts will come from Medicare Advantage plans alone.
  • More than half of the seniors expected to participate in Medicare Advantage (7.4 million Americans) will lose their coverage entirely over the next 10 years, according to Medicare’s chief actuary.
  • An estimated one out of seven hospitals may go out of business and doctors may not take new patients because of cuts in their fees, according to Medicare’s chief actuary.
  • Health reform will raise additional revenue through new taxes on drugs and medical devices, items which are disproportionately used by seniors and the disabled.

On restraining the growth of Medicare spending, the law does give an independent agency more power than any previous commission to rein in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals and other suppliers. But, as Joe Newhouse wrote in Health Affairs the other day:

  • To follow its mandate, the independent agency would have to cause Medicare fees to fall further and further behind what private insurers pay.
  • This means that seniors and the disabled would look increasingly less attractive to providers than higher paying private sector patients, including a lot of the newly insured.
  • In the worse case, Medicare enrollees could find they are no better off than the Medicaid enrollees who have to rely on community health centers and safety net hospitals for their care.

Newhouse envisions a world in which seniors who can afford to do so will pay out-of-pocket for concierge services while those who cannot afford such fees will get care that increasingly looks like Medicaid. (Ironically, a number of studies suggest that care for Medicaid enrollees is not only inferior to the privately insured, it is even inferior to the care received by the uninsured!)

Comments (14)

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  1. Ken says:

    Good post, and very timely!

  2. Joe S. says:

    Who is the NCOA? And what do they have against seniors? Or the disabled?

  3. Vicki says:

    Joe, whoever they are they’re not any worse that President Obama, the Democratic leadership in Congress and AARP. Seems like all these people decided all of a sudden to gang up on the most defenseless members of society.

  4. Mike says:

    Regarding the CLASS long term Care program, Democratic Senator Kent Conrad called it “a Ponzi scheme…Bernie Madoff would be proud of.” CBO warns it will cause exploding budget deficits.

  5. Virginia says:

    Isn’t Newhouse’s vision a good thing? If we start having seniors pay an annual premium (I’ve heard that there are doctors that are already doing this), then we’re creating more incentive for consumer choice. It seems like, over time, the annual premium would get higher, and the per visit government reimbursment would get smaller.

    The longer the system is solvent, the longer we have to wait for consumers to do the right thing.

  6. MOEY says:

    This quiz is a joke. They ask if it is true about the wellness/physical check covered under Medicare! Are they nuts – that benefit has been there for years – it is nothing new under this ‘bill’ recently passed.

    This is a lopsided organization from my view and I’m a senior citizen who still works 40 hours a week – FOR insurance coverage.

  7. steve says:

    Why do you support Medicare Advantage given that it costs about 14% more than regular Medicare? What mechanism do you propose to cut back Medicare spending that does not lower physician fees?


  8. John Goodman says:

    I’m all for paying Medicare Advantage programs the same as we pay Medicare, provided the playing field is level. But I’m not for pulling back from Medicare Advantage and turning around and spending more taxpayer dollars on drug coverage that previously was being covered by MA plans. Or in pulling back on rural MA plans and then stepping up taxpayer subsidies for rural care.

    My solution for reforming Medicare is here:

  9. Ron Bachman says:

    I spoke to many Tea Party meetings last year with 40-60% of the audience being Medicare beneficiaries. They knew they were going to get “hosed” with health reform. What the Dems ignore is that the fastest going block of voters may not be the Hispanics, but the Baby-Boomers turning 65. They will shift to Republican votes in key states like Pa. and will be critical offsets to the Dem. strategy of solidifying minorities to will in 2010 and 2012. These folks don’t forget being called un-American, mobsters, and worse. Hurry November!

  10. Larry C. says:

    Why is it that seniors are most betrayed by the organizations that claim to represent them?

  11. Nancy says:

    Ron, your giving me hope.

  12. Art Fougner MD says:

    Maggie Mahar is trying to make a big deal about this … that Seniors’ opposition is merely lack of knowledge.

  13. Jennie Fiedler says:

    All of this makes me think that when I become a senior citizen in a few years my “medical” will either be exceptionally good health or a bottle of prescription pain killers and a fifth of Jack Daniels. Nothing in between because I won’t be able to afford it.

  14. Thomas W. LaGrelius MD, FAAFP says:

    How the hell do we get out of this mess John? I’m thinking of leaving the country I’m so discouraged. However, my concierge practice is booming so it’s not hurting me. I just fear for my kids, my patients, my country. Obama is a disaster. When is it going to dawn on the public?