Roberts calls HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the carpet
• Special to the Daily Leader
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius regarding a misleading mailer sent to Medicare beneficiaries bearing her name.
The following is the text of the letter:
The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
I write regarding the new mailer from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) entitled “Medicare and the New Health Care Law – What it Means for You” (http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11467.pdf).
This document contains several statements that directly contradict the findings of CMS’s own Chief Actuary. I believe our seniors in Kansas and across the United States deserve a full explanation of the conflicting statements coming from the same agency.
Since the mailer is billed as “A Message from Kathleen Sebelius”, I hope that you can clear up these inconsistencies as well as answer a few additional questions in the interest of full honesty, accountability and transparency. Can you provide explanations for the following discrepancies:
o The CMS mailer says that the new health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), “will keep Medicare strong and solvent.” However, the CMS Actuary characterizes the “longer-term viability” of PPACA’s Medicare cuts as “doubtful.”
o The CMS mailer says that under PPACA, “your guaranteed Medicare benefits won’t change - whether you get them through original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan.” However, the CMS Actuary has reported that PPACA’s cuts to Medicare could jeopardize access for seniors, saying that “providers for whom Medicare constitutes a substantive portion of their business could find it difficult to remain profitable and...might end their participation in the program.”
o The CMS mailer says that PPACA makes “improvements to Medicare Advantage”, a program upon which more than 40,000 Kansas seniors rely. However, the CMS Actuary says the cuts in the law will ”result in less generous benefit packages.”
o The CMS mailer says that PPACA “will provide you and your family greater savings.” However, the CMS Actuary says that costs will actually increase under the law.
o The CMS mailer says that PPACA’s Community Living and Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act) program, a government-run long-term care insurance program, “improves long-term care choices.” However, the CMS Actuary says the CLASS Act has “a significant risk of failure,” and is “unsustainable.”
Additionally, please disclose how much it cost CMS to produce and distribute this mailer and how these costs were financed, how many citizens it was sent to, and under what spending authority it was produced and mailed.
Finally, please explain the Obama Administration’s position on private companies’ ability to educate the public about the effects of PPACA including, but not limited to, the ability of Medicare Advantage plans to send information about premium increases and benefit reductions to their plan beneficiaries.
It seems that a simple comparison of statements as outlined above would indicate this mailer is misleading, at best. At worst, I fear it could represent taxpayer-financed government propaganda. On behalf of citizens in Kansas and nationwide, I appreciate your attention to addressing this important matter as quickly as possible.