Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Mike Haridopolos and the 'Ryan Plan'

Mike Haridopolos got kicked off a radio show for failing to say whether he'd vote for the "Ryan Plan."

Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a candidate for U.S. Senate, is facing criticism for failing to take a stance on the "Ryan Plan," a Republican budget blueprint championed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Haridopolos was kicked off a radio talk show May 31, 2011, after refusing to say whether he'd vote for the plan. "OK, get him off my phone. I don't want anything to do with this guy. Get rid of him," talk show host Ray Junior said after several attempts to get Haridopolos to take a firm position on the proposal.

Haridopolos then clarified his position in a statement on June 1, saying he "support(s) the goals of the Ryan Plan." But Haridopolos didn't say whether or not he'd vote for it.

Still later the same day, a Haridopolos spokesman said Haridopolos would have voted "no," against the Ryan Plan as it's now constructed.

It all raises the question: Just what is the Ryan Plan?

Luckily, PolitiFact offers a great guide.

Ryan’s plan would dramatically cut federal spending in the name of fiscal discipline. One of its major features is dramatically restructuring Medicare, the government-run health insurance program for those 65 and older. Right now, Medicare pays doctors and hospitals set fees for the care beneficiaries receive. Medicare beneficiaries pay premiums for some types of coverage, and younger workers contribute payroll taxes.

Ryan's plan leaves Medicare as is for people 55 and older. In 2022, though, new beneficiaries would be insured by private insurance companies rather than the federal government, although they would receive "premium support" -- financial assistance from the government for buying insurance. People who need more health care would get a little more money.

The proposal requires private insurers to accept all applicants and to charge the same rate for people the same age. The plans would comply with standards set by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which administers the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The plan gradually raises the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and provides smaller premium support to high earners.

The changes to Medicare are what make the plan difficult for some Florida politicians -- who rely on the votes of seniors -- to accept.

Among the major Republicans seeking to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson, former state House majority leader Adam Hasner has said he would vote for the Ryan Plan, Haridopolos (apparently) says he would vote against it, and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux has not taken a position (he favors a more vague plan he created).

Here are some of the statements about Ryan's proposal we've checked:

• Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said the Ryan proposal changes Medicare for those under age 55 so that they will "participate in the same kind of health plan that members of Congress do."

We concluded that while Ryan’s Medicare proposal is only a broad outline right now, it is fundamentally different from the kind of employer-provided health insurance that members of Congress receive. At a minimum, the premium supports will not keep pace with the historic record of rapidly increasing health care costs. Additionally, most seniors make significantly less income than members of Congress and will likely not have the same options to buy more expensive plans. And, finally, they will not get the same protection against rising costs that "Fair Share" provides members of Congress. We rated Pence’s statement Barely True.

• Making his case for the need for dramatic deficit reduction, Ryan said, "The Congressional Budget Office has this economic model where they measure the economy going forward, and they are now telling us that the entire economy crashes in the year 2037 because their computer simulation can't conceive of any way in which the U.S. economy can continue." We found that CBO actually uses multiple models that have produced varying results. Second, Ryan predicts a collapse in 2037, but there’s considerable variation in the doomsday year depending on the model the CBO uses and the data it plugs into its calculations.

We also concluded the CBO’s "computer simulation can't conceive of any way in which the U.S. economy can continue" is an overstatement. In fact, the CBO finds lots of unpalatable scenarios if things get bad enough, but the agency doesn’t go so far as to suggest that the economy will simply cease functioning. Economies are far more complex than any single model, so just because a model stops working, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will go back to hunter-gatherer days.

What saves Ryan’s comment is that, despite his exaggerations, his general point is valid. The economists we spoke to agreed that the nation’s current path of deficits and debt, if not altered, will become unsustainable. We rated his claim Half True.

• Our colleagues at PolitiFact Wisconsin looked into a claim about the Ryan plan from MoveOn.org, the left-leaning political advocacy group. In an e-mail to its members, MoveOn.org asserted: "Here's the most important thing you need to know about the Republicans' new budget plan: It abolishes Medicare within 10 years."

To be sure, the Ryan plan would change Medicare significantly starting in 2022. But for those who turn 65 before then, there would be no changes at all, even after 2022. And for the others, Medicare would change -- dramatically -- but it would still exist. They rated MoveOn.org's claim False.

• We also checked two claims from a classic political ad created by The Agenda Project. One: Whether the Ryan plan would "privatize Medicare." The other: Whether the Ryan budget proposal would leave the country "without Medicare."

On the first claim -- whether the Ryan plan would "privatize Medicare" -- we concluded that while the government would retain important duties in running Medicare under the Ryan plan, "privatization" does not have to mean that the government has nothing further to do with the enterprise. So we rated this claim Mostly True.

On the second claim -- whether the plan would leave the country without Medicare -- we found that while the Ryan plan would make substantial changes to Medicare, it would not end it. We rated that False.

• And we recently weighed in on a claim made by Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that Ryan's Medicare proposal would "allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions."

While we found that Wasserman Schultz is free to criticize the Ryan plan on any number of grounds, she went too far in her comment. The Ryan plan specifically noted that coverage could not be prevented by a pre-existing condition. We rated this statement False.

You can see even more fact checks on Ryan's proposal by clicking here.