'Evening News' Attacks Privatization of Medicare

     “CBS Evening News” must not like choices.


     The newscast promoted government run health insurance again on July 16, by scaring seniors about Medicare privatization.


     “Private Medicare Advantage offers as many as 50 different plans, causing untold confusion over coverage, premiums, copays, provider networks,” warned investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.


     Keteyian then introduced Bob Hayes of the Medicare Rights Center, which fields “thousands of calls from seniors scared to death they’ve made the wrong choice.”


     Participation in the Medicare Advantage program is voluntary, but you didn’t hear that from Keteyian’s report which relied heavily on criticism of the program.


     Prior to the passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act in 2003, seniors had only one choice – a one size fits all plan.


     CBS barely included the perspective that choice can be good. The head of Medicare, Leslie Norwalk was given about ten seconds to express that point before Keteyian attacked the potential profit insurance companies are making from the program. The CBS correspondent called the plans "expensive" to taxpayers.


     Hayes also said the “benefit packages are very complicated.” What CBS did not say is that Hayes’ organization has its own agenda.


     The Medicare Rights Center is against privatizating any part of Medicare. Its Web site states, “Medicare needs to be protected from attempts to privatize the program and weaken the guaranteed coverage it provides to all older adults and people with disabilities.”


     The Medicare Rights Center also advocates Medicare benefits for everyone – or universal health care as a right of citizenship as it states on its Web site.


     Keteyian’s story suggested that the legislation was originally passed in secret to sneak it past voters.


     “It was the winter of 2003 when Congress, in the dead of night, overhauled Medicare,” said Keteyian. 


     But the passage of the bill was not quite as secretive as CBS insinuated. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law at a much-publicized signing ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall on Dec. 8, 2003.


     The report featured one disgruntled senior, Aaron Cohen, who didn’t get home therapy paid for for his broken leg.  However, CBS used that anecdotal evidence to suggest all seniors who chose private plans are unhappy.


     But according the Wall Street Journal, the Medicare Advantage provision in the 2003 legislation is extremely popular.


     “Hundreds of thousands of seniors are signing up for a type of privately run Medicare plan that delivers traditional benefits without the usual restrictions on access to doctors and hospitals,” said the Journal on Aug. 29, 2006.

     Last month, the CBS “Evening News” tried to alarm seniors by suggesting economic hardship would force them to work beyond retirement.