Sen. John McCain Votes to End Cancer Treatments for Medicare Beneficiaries-Mostly Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), while undergoing taxpayer-funded cancer treatments, voted to end cancer treatments for Medicare beneficiaries.
John McCain voted in support of the GOP’s tax reform bill, which experts warn could trigger Medicare spending cuts. But McCain did not “vote to end cancer treatments for Medicare beneficiaries,” as has been claimed.
If the GOP tax plan is enacted, and $1.5 trillion in unfunded tax cuts trigger pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budget rules, the bill could trigger mandatory Medicare spending cuts. However, that hasn’t yet happened. So claims that John McCain voted to end cancer treatments for Medicare beneficiaries are mostly fiction.
It’s not clear where the rumor started, exactly. But various versions circulating on social media have sparked outraged and claims of hypocrisy. We’ll take a look at what the GOP tax plan could mean for Medicare cancer treatments, and John McCain’s stance on those issues.
Does GOP Tax Plan End Medicare Cancer Treatments?
Again, the GOP tax plan does not outline specific Medicare cuts. And John McCain did not vote for a bill to end cancer treatments for medicare beneficiaries. But a statutory budget rule known as “PAYGO” could trigger mandatory spending cuts to certain programs, including Medicare.
The PAYGO rule requires across-the-board mandatory cuts to non-exempt federal programs when legislation increases the deficit over a five- or ten-year budget window without any offsets. The $1.5 trillion cost of the GOP’s tax plan would trigger the PAYGO rule, and the result would be up to $28 billion in Medicare cuts in 2018. By 2027, the mandatory 4 percent cut (or sequester) to Medicare would grow to $56 billion, the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget reports.
However, John McCain (and other senators) could avert the PAYGO rule. The Senate could pass a budget resolution that exempts specific legislation (the tax reform bill) from the PAYGO rule. Another method would be for Congress to change how federal spending is scored. Dynamic scoring, which takes into account economic growth resulting from spending, could prevent the GOP tax plan from triggering PAYGO. Check out our previous coverage of dynamic scoring vs. static scoring of the GOP tax plan here.
So, the GOP tax plan could trigger 4 percent Medicare spending cuts under the PAYGO rule. But it’s not clear if that will happen. It’s also not clear if John McCain would support a bill that ends Medicare cancer treatments.
Would John McCain Support a Bill Ending Medicare Cancer Treatments?
John McCain announced on Nov. 30 that he would support the GOP tax reform plan. The senator called the bill “far from perfect,” but said it would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy and provide tax relief.
McCain’s statement didn’t reference Medicare cuts. His statement did, however, voice support for health care reform. More specifically, McCain supported repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate (which the GOP tax plan would accomplish). Medical groups argue that ending the individual mandate could lead to widespread loss of cancer treatment coverage for Americans who rely on ACA plans.
But it’s not clear that the GOP’s tax reform bill would eliminate Medicare cancer treatments — even if PAYGO rule cuts go into effect. AARP said an immediate $25 billion reduction in Medicare funding would affect payments to doctors and hospitals that care for Medicare beneficiaries:
The $25 billion reduction would affect the payments that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers receive for treating Medicare patients. Individual benefits would not change and neither would premiums, deductibles or copays. But with so much less money going to providers, the cuts could have major impacts on patient access to health care — such as fewer physicians accepting Medicare patients.
And Medicare’s coverage of cancer treatment typically comes from Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage. Beneficiaries have to enroll in these programs and (most) have to pay additional premiums. It’s not clear at this time how Medicare sequester cuts would impact Medicare Part A, Part B or Medicare Advantage plans.
In the end, claims that John McCain voted to end cancer treatments for Medicare beneficiaries despite receiving taxpayer-funded cancer treatments are mostly false. While the GOP tax reform bill could trigger Medicare cuts, that hasn’t happened yet. Additionally, it’s not clear how (or if) those cuts would impact coverage of cancer treatments.