[Update, 3:30 pm Eastern: See below.]
CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen tried to assuage the elderly over their concerns with ObamaCare on Monday’s Newsroom: “If there’s one group of people who needs to worry the least about health care reform, it’s probably the elderly... [they] already have Medicare.” This claim by Cohen ignores planned cuts to Medicare benefits announced by President Obama himself back in January.
Anchor Tony Harris brought on Cohen to answer viewer questions during the first minutes of the 11 am Eastern hour. One viewer named Jake asked if he would lose his Medicare under the Obama proposal. She replied, “If there’s one group of people who needs to worry the least about health care reform, it’s probably the elderly, and the reason for that is that the elderly already have Medicare. They already have government-sponsored health insurance. Reform is about helping people who are under the age of 65. So, he really doesn’t have to worry about his Medicare.”
Cohen could be going on the claim that President Obama made at an AARP-sponsored town hall on July 28 that “nobody is talking about cutting Medicare benefits.” But as the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll pointed out the next day, one would need to go only to George Stephanopoulos’s interview of the then president-elect on This Week on January 11 to cast doubt on this claim. The ABC News host asked the Democrat how he was going to pay for his health care “reform” proposal.” Obama answered:
PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Well, you know, these are going to be major challenges, and we’re going to have to make some tough choices. Now what I’ve done is indicated to my team that we’ve got to eliminate programs that don’t work, and I’ll give you an example in the health care area. We are spending a lot of money subsidizing the insurance companies around something called Medicare Advantage, a program that gives them subsidies to accept Medicare recipients but doesn’t necessarily make people on Medicare healthier. And if we eliminate that and other programs, we can potentially save $200 billion out of the health care system that we’re currently spending and take that money and use it in ways that are actually going to make people healthier and improve quality. So what our challenge is going to be is identifying what works and putting more money into that, eliminating things that don't work, and making things that we have more efficient.
Carroll continued that “Over one in five Medicare patients are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plans that President Obama wants to completely cut. The benefits that over 10.5 million seniors would lose as a result of President Obama’s $200 billion in Medicare Advantage cuts include: prescription drug coverage, preventive-care services, coordinate care for chronic conditions...skilled nursing facility stays,” among other benefits. So contrary to Cohen’s reassuring answer, these millions of seniors should worry about their benefits, if Obama’s proposal is passed. This is not to mention the many concerns over end-of-life care.
The transcript of the relevant portion of the segment from Monday’s Newsroom, which began 9 minutes into the 11 am Eastern hour:
TONY HARRIS: As we try to cut through the noise over health reform, we want to address your real questions and concerns we’ve been hearing from you on our blog. And our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is here to answer some of your questions. I’ve got two quick ones. Good to see you, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH COHEN: Good to see you.
HARRIS: Are you ready to take these on?
COHEN: I am.
HARRIS: The first comes from Jake, who writes, ‘I am retired and have Blue Cross insurance, along with Medicare. Will I lose my Medicare with the new plan? Will I still have to pay $200 and $167 for Medicare per month? Can I cancel my BC?’
COHEN: Blue Cross.
HARRIS: My Blue Cross- yeah.
COHEN: Blue Cross- you know what? If there’s one group of people who needs to worry the least about health care reform, it’s probably the elderly, and the reason for that is that the elderly already have Medicare. They already have government-sponsored health insurance. Reform is about helping people who are under the age of 65. So, he really doesn't have to worry about his Medicare, and as I understand this question from Jake, what he’s saying is that he has chosen- on top of Medicare, he’s decided he needs a private plan as well-
HARRIS: Yeah- supplement care-
COHEN: To supplement Medicare, which a lot of seniors do. And so, he’s asking us, should he cancel it? I would say no. Whatever he feels he needs now to supplement his Medicare, he’s going to feel he needs after health care reform.
HARRIS: Yeah- gotcha.
COHEN: So, he should just sit tight and not make any changes at this moment.