(CNN) – Talk of saving Medicare from a "half-trillion-dollar" cut has become a major talking point in Republican efforts to derail the Obama administration's push for a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health insurance system.
Key GOP lawmakers - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee - all used it while making the rounds of Sunday's political talk shows.
"Republicans don't believe half a trillion in Medicare cuts and half trillion dollars in new taxes and possibly higher insurance premiums for all in the insurance market is reform," McConnell told CNN's "State of the Union."
Does it sound familiar? It should. CNN examined the same claim in August and found it to be misleading. Here's a refresher, updated with more recent figures:
Get the facts and the bottom line after the jump:
Fact Check: Do the Democratic health-care plans cut Medicare?
- According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the health care bill the Senate passed in December would wring $491 billion from the projected future costs of Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years. The bulk of the savings would be generated by reining in the growth of payments to doctors and hospitals and from cutting subsidies to the Medicare Advantage program, which pays private insurers to provide Medicare benefits.
- The AARP, which supports an overhaul of health care, says the legislation would not cut Medicare benefits or increase out-of-pocket costs for Medicare, the federal health-care program for Americans over 65. But Republicans argue that there's no way to cut future costs that much without reducing services. The CBO says it is "unclear" whether the Senate bill - the rough template for the proposal the White House put forward last week - could reduce the growth of Medicare spending without reducing care.
- Incidentally, the GOP has found itself on the business end of this claim before: A 1995 plan to cut projected Medicare spending by more than $250 billion over seven years triggered a budget confrontation with the Clinton administration that partially shut down the federal government. And Ryan is currently pushing a more drastic overhaul of Medicare, one that would largely replace the program with a system of vouchers that could be used to buy private health insurance. The vouchers would take effect for people joining Medicare in 2021.
The claim is still misleading. Though the full impact of the Senate bill the CBO examined may not be known for years, the proposal is aimed at cutting the rate of growth of Medicare spending without cutting benefits.
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