Ad Targeting Manchin and AARP Mischaracterizes Medicare Drug-Price Negotiations

by | Jul 25, 2022 | Health

Sen. Joe Manchin and AARP “support government price-setting schemes” to divert money from Medicare to “unrelated government programs or pad big insurers’ profits.”

Ad by American Commitment, July 10

A snappy political advertisement from the conservative advocacy group American Commitment bluntly charges Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with supporting a legislative plan that would drain “billions in funds” from Medicare.

Specifically, the ad claims that Manchin and AARP, the well-known advocacy group for people 50 and older, “support government price-setting schemes that’ll give liberal politicians billions in funds meant for Medicare to spend on unrelated government programs or pad big insurers’ profits.” Here, “price-setting” is a reference to a policy proposal that its backers say would give Medicare the ability to rein in the prices it pays for some prescription drugs so they are more in line with prices in other industrialized countries.

American Commitment didn’t respond directly to KHN’s request for comment, but its president, Phil Kerpen, took to Twitter to react to our email inquiry. Kerpen tweeted on July 14 that “CBO shows Manchin/Schumer drug price controls raid Medicare for $287 billion, most of which is expected to be sent to insurance companies as supersized Obamacare subsidies.”

This is a reference to the Congressional Budget Office’s July 6 cost estimate of the prescription drug policies in an economic package — a type of legislation known as a reconciliation bill — that Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, hope to bring to the floor in the coming weeks. The CBO found those policies would save $287.6 billion over 10 years as a result of Medicare’s reduced spending on drugs. More on this later.

Both Manchin and AARP dismissed the ad’s message.

“This ad funded by Big Pharma is blatantly lying about Sen. Manchin’s record,” said Sam Runyon, Manchin’s communications director. “West Virginia seniors know Sen. Manchin has worked tirelessly to protect Medicare and reduce prescription drug costs.”

American Commitment received $505,000 from PhRMA, the drug industry’s trade group, in the 2020 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.

In the days after the ad began airing, Manchin announced he would support only a slimmed-down version of the reconciliation bill, although his support for Medicare drug-price negotiations has remained steady.

Bill Sweeney, AARP’s senior vice president of government affairs, said the ad is representative of “the false attacks” that opponents of the proposal are using. “So I don’t think anything can be further [from] the truth,” he said, referring to the ad’s assertion that the Medicare program will be cut to pay for something else.

This ad is marked by charged language and opinions, and it raises the question of whether giving Medicare the power to regulate drug prices would be the price-setting scheme that American Commitment makes it out to be.

What Are Medicare Drug-Price Negotiations?

The ad claims that Manchin and AARP “support government p …

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