Under the Dome

New ‘dark money’ ad targets Hagan on Medicare

CORRECTED: The original post gave incorrect information about a letter Hagan, Burr and other senators sent to White House about payment to Medicaire Advantage beneficiaries.

Another “dark money” group launched an ad campaign in North Carolina on Friday against Sen. Kay Hagan. American Action Network, a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose donors, is spending $240,000 in the state on a TV ad in Greensboro and mail and online advertising statewide.

It’s part of a $1 million campaign targeting two other senators who, like Hagan, are in tight re-election races, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and six members of the U.S. House of Representatives. (See Hagan ad below.)

The ad opens with two people in what looks like a doctor’s waiting room watching a TV clip of President Obama saying people would be able to keep their insurance plans and doctors, and that “nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits.” The words “Lie of the year” appear.

“We know that’s not true because for the second year in a row, the Obama Administration has proposed deep rate cuts to the Medicare Advantage Seniors rely on,” the narrator says.

The rate reductions are to the amount Medicare pays to the private companies that run Medicare Advantage. They are required in the Affordable Care Act, and they’re intended to phase down the extra payments to Medicare Advantage per beneficiary compared to what traditional Medicare pays. The rates also are being reduced because the growth of Medicare costs has slowed. Read more here.

The rates paid to the insurance companies for Medicare Advantage are adjusted annually at this time of year. The next rate change is due in early April.

American Action Network says that seniors will face higher premiums, fewer doctor choices and fewer benefits if the rates are reduced. The 30-second ad points out that Hagan supported the health care law. It asks people to put pressure on her to oppose the Medicare Advantage cuts.

Hagan did that in February in a letter she signed with 39 other senators, including Republican Sen. Richard Burr, asking the administration “maintain payment levels that will allow MA beneficiaries to be protected from disruptive changes in 2015.” .

“Token support is not enough. It’s time Senator Hagan actually stands up and fights to stop President Obama from gutting Medicare Advantage for Obamacare,” said Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for American Action Network. The group is a conservative organization run by former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota.

Hagan’s campaign said the ad was misleading.

“North Carolinians know that Kay is a champion for seniors who has always stood up against special interests to protect Medicare and Social Security,” said campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner. “Secretive groups are piling money into the state to scare North Carolinians and buy this election for someone like Thom Tillis who will peddle their agenda. Those outside groups won’t tell you that Thom Tillis supports a dangerous agenda on Medicare that would turn it into a voucher program and make seniors pay more for prescription drugs.”

The health care law, which Hagan supported, does not weaken Medicare Advantage, the campaign said. The law also provided savings in Medicare for prescription drugs and free preventive care.

Americans for Prosperity, another group that doesn’t disclose donors, has spent $8.3 million in issue ads against Hagan.