Yesterday's Senate debate about amendments to the Democrats' health overhaul bill sent NPR health policy guru and one-woman truth squad Julie Rovner into overdrive.
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'Is that so,' Sen. Coburn?
Senators were throwing around claims about such hot-button topics as mammograms and the cost of Medicare Advantage yesterday.
Rovner tackles those two issues in the latest installment of 'Is That So," our occasional series on the fact and fiction of health overhaul. So here goes.
Q: Following the recent controversy in mammogram recommendations, the Senate passed the first amendment to the health care bill ensuring women's access to mammograms and other preventive services. Senate Majority Harry Reid claims these screenings save lives and save money. Is that so?
Listen to Sen. Reid:
Rovner answers: Unfortunately, it's not entirely accurate. The first part is true; these are important screenings that can catch potential problems early, and when they do, they do save lives. But on a population-wide basis, they don't necessarily save money, because you have so many negative findings per positive finding.
In fact, Sen. Mikulski's amendment, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will cost nearly a billion dollars over ten years. It was actually in the version of the bill that came out of one of the committees, but Sen. Reid dropped it because it cost too much. After the mammography controversy broke; he changed his mind. But it still doesn't save money.
Q: There have been a lot of complaints from Republicans about Democrats trying to cut Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn made this claim: "Who set the prices on Medicare Advantage? The government set the prices on Medicare Advantage. The very same people that you want to run the program now, created a 14 percent premium." Is that so?
Listen to Sen. Coburn:
Rovner answers: No, and I'll give Sen. Coburn a pass on this one, because he wasn't in Congress back in 2003, when Republicans decided to give big raises to Medicare Advantage, Medicare plans offered by private companies and paid for by the feds, in order to entice seniors to join them. That 14 percent premium he's talking about is accurate, but it was ordered not by the government, but by congressional Republicans, and now Democrats want to roll those payments back.
For more fact-checking, see Rovner's Thursday installment on claims about how overhaul would affect the market for insurance and the federal deficit.