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LETTER: 'Obamacare' will help Medicare, improve care

To the Editor:

Medicare has become a contentious issue in the campaign. It is a vital and popular program. As the charges fly back and forth, it is important to try to sort out truth from fiction.

One of the most misleading and inaccurate charges leveled at the Obama administration is that it has, through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), destabilized Medicare and undermined its future by "cutting" over $700 billion.

What are the facts? Rather than weakening Medicare, the savings in the Obamacare legislation have extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by 10 years. This was accomplished by a variety of economies. The most significant of these was a reduction in the subsidies paid to private insurance companies that provide Medicare benefits -- the program known as Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage, instead of saving money, has cost the government about 15 percent more than traditional Medicare. These changes will bring costs in line with traditional Medicare.

What about benefits? Instead of cutting benefits as the opponents would have you believe, the benefits were actually increased. Preventive services were added and changes were made to gradually close the "doughnut hole" in the Part D drug benefit.

One would think that the opponents, who repeatedly (and correctly) argue that we need to reduce entitlement costs, would applaud changes that improve benefits and reduce spending. Instead it appears they have chosen to mislead voters and scare Medicare beneficiaries.

These are serious problems. A 10-year extension of the solvency of the Trust Fund is significant but it is not nearly enough. There are still many opportunities for savings.

If we are to make needed changes we need serious and honest discussion -- not the hypocrisy, misrepresentation and scare tactics which have characterized so much of the recent debate.