As Democrats and Republicans gird themselves for a fight over President Obama’s health care law, the leading health care reform coalition in the country is locked in a brawl with the 60-Plus Association — a corporate-backed organization posing as a senior citizen’s advocacy group. And heading the fight for 60-Plus is a former Bush attorney with a history of attempting to suppress voter turnout.
At the center of the tussle are dozens of ads 60-Plus is running in districts of vulnerable Democrats who voted for the law. At a distinct financial disadvantage, progressive groups — including Health Care for America Now and MoveOn — are asking TV stations around the country to drop the ad, citing factual inaccuracies.
“These ads are designed to spread fear among Medicare enrollees by promoting the misconception that the Affordable Care Act represents a threat to the integrity of their health benefits,” wroite HCAN executive director Ethan Rome in a letter to the general managers of the stations running the ads. “This is a blatant falsehood.”
In a response letter on behalf of 60-Plus, former Bush attorney Jason Torchinsky lays out the case for the ads, which seek to convince seniors that the health care law will cut their Medicare benefits. “The HCAN letter is a meritless attempt to deny the public the opportunity to view and consider an advertisement critical of legislation enacted and positions taken on issues of national importance,” he writes.
The 60-Plus Association bills itself as a conservative alternative to AARP, but has virtually no income from member dues. Their ads’ most prominent argument is that the health care law will “cut” Medicare by $500 billion.
As is so often the case when evaluating the accuracy of political arguments made about the health care law, the claim isn’t entirely false. The bill does find $500 billion in savings, largely by ending overpayments to providers of Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing payment increases to providers to incentivize improved care. The bill does not mandate benefit cuts of any kind, though some seniors on Medicare advantage might see some disruption.
However, most independent experts agree that the savings the bill squeezes out of Medicare result from positive changes that improve the program.
You can see one of the 60-Plus ads below. Similar ads run in over 80 markets around the country.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.