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Donald Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services secretary, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., has a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But a Democratic website says he wants to go further and nix Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors and the disabled.
"Trump’s Health Secretary Pick Wants a Medicare Phase Out by Summer 2017," reads a headline on a Winning Democrats article posted Dec. 1. Over the next week the post generated 14,000 likes.
The Winning Democrats article frames Price’s position as ending Medicare.
"In short, Americans can expect Republicans in Congress to begin their effort to wipe out Medicare in one swoop, which would harm millions of Americans immediately and millions more in the years to come as Medicare no longer exists to help older Americans pay for health care without having to deal with all the bulls--- private insurance companies do," reads an excerpt from the piece.
Democratic claims that Republicans wanted to end Medicare were pervasive in previous years, so much so that the claim "Republicans voted to end Medicare" won the 2011 Lie of the Year.
Price’s alleged position is significant since Trump promised to leave Medicare alone as president. More recently, however, Trump’s transition website says he wants to "modernize Medicare so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation -- and beyond."
Does Trump’s HHS pick actually want to discontinue Medicare?
We found that Price does favor changing Medicare, but it’s wrong to say he wants to end it.
Price’s plan does not equal phasing out Medicare
Price’s spokesperson sent PolitiFact the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution as a basis for Price’s plan. The resolution was prepared by the House budget committee, of which Price is chairman.
The plans does not include ending Medicare.
The suggested plan would be similar to the Medicare Advantage program. Beneficiaries would pick from a list of government-approved plans and the government would make a payment to the insurers to help cover the cost of the plan.
Paul Ginsburg, a public policy professor at the University of Southern California, called the "phase out" claim false.
"The FY17 budget resolution says some things about Medicare, but they appear to be along the lines of more private-plan alternatives to traditional Medicare," Ginsburg said. "However, it is not at all clear how these would differ from Medicare Advantage plans, which have attracted more than 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries."
Ginsburg wasn’t alone. None of the experts we interviewed said Price’s plan amounts to getting rid of Medicare. Experts did agree, however, that Price’s plan would dramatically change how Medicare works.
"I do not equate Price’s plan to ‘phasing out Medicare,’ though the plan would significantly change how Medicare works, converting it from a defined benefit program (beneficiaries guaranteed a certain level of coverage) into a defined contribution program (beneficiaries given a fixed dollar amount with which to buy coverage)," said Michael Spearer, a health policy and management professor at Columbia University.
That’s a serious change, but the Winning Democrats story makes it sound as if Price is referring to phasing out Medicare.
Here’s how the remark appears in the story:
That quote originally appeared in a Nov. 17 Talking Points Memo article, "Rep. Tom Price Reveals Republicans Eyeing Medicare Overhaul In 2017."
So the Winning Democrats frames Price’s quote to refer to phasing out Medicare, when the remark was in reference to a Medicare overhaul.
Winning Democrats said Price wants to phase out Medicare by summer 2017.
Price favors an overhaul of Medicare, but the phrase "phase out" is too strong and gives readers the specific impression Medicare won’t exist under Price. Medicare will exist, and Price’s preferred plan for its future is laid out in detail in the 2017 Fiscal Year Budget Resolution.
In addition, the article offers little to no evidence to support the idea that Price wants to end Medicare. We rate this claim False.
Interview, Michael Tanner senior health care policy expert at the Cato Institute, Dec. 6
Email Interview, Michael Sparer, Health Policy and Management professor at Columbia University, Dec. 6
Interview, Stephen Zuckerman, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center, Dec. 7
Email interview, Paul Ginsburg, public policy professor at the University of Southern California, Dec. 7
Email interview, Caitlin Oakley, press secretary to Tom Price, Dec. 7
Winning Democrats, "TRUMP’S HEALTH SECRETARY PICK WANTS MEDICARE PHASEOUT BY SUMMER 2017," Dec. 1
Talking Point Memo, "Rep. Tom Price Reveals Republicans Eyeing Medicare Overhaul In 2017," Nov. 17
Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Resolution, House Committee on the Budget, March 2016
The Washington Post, "Trump names Rep. Tom Price as next HHS secretary," Nov. 29
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