Republicans are once again attacking Congressional Democrats on Medicare spending cuts, using a line of attack that has been roundly discredited.
In a series of news releases dealing with the national health care reform law, the National Republican Congressional Committee on Aug. 14 claimed 37 House Democrats are "willing to jeopardize seniors’ access to coverage by gutting $741 billion from Medicare" to pay for a "big-government healthcare takeover."
Those Democrats include New Jersey Reps. Rush Holt, Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell, all of whom voted for the reform in March 2010. They’re also up for reelection this November against GOP challengers.
PolitiFact National recently issued a Mostly False to presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for claiming President Barack Obama "robbed" Medicare of $716 billion to pay for the reform.
By attacking the congressmen, the committee makes the same mistake as Romney, but then goes one step further in rehashing that myth about the reform being a government takeover.
First, we’ll talk about the reduction in Medicare spending.
Over the last couple of years, Republicans have frequently criticized the reform for cutting $500 billion from Medicare. U.S. Reps. Jon Runyan and Scott Garrett have each received Mostly False rulings for repeating that claim.
But the reform does not cut $500 billion from the current Medicare budget. Instead, the reform aims to slow the program’s future spending growth.
So, that $500 billion has represented the reduction in spending increases during the 2012-2021 period, according to a 2011 estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
In its latest estimate released last month, the budget office said the reform would reduce future Medicare spending by $716 billion between 2013 and 2022. The $741 billion figure cited by the committee includes that Medicare spending and money for other federal programs.
Most of those Medicare savings come from reducing annual increases in payments to certain health care providers. The reduction in Medicare spending helps offset other costs created by the reform.
But the committee is wrong to claim Democrats support "gutting" Medicare. Program spending will still increase under the reform, but just at a slower pace.
Now, we’ll address whether the reform represents a "big-government healthcare takeover."
That claim has been debunked numerous times and was ultimately named PolitiFact’s 2010 Lie of the Year. PolitiFact New Jersey issued a Pants on Fire to Gov. Chris Christie for repeating the line in October 2011.
The reform does impose more government regulations on individuals, employers and private insurance companies. For instance, people must purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty, with some exemptions. Also, insurers can sell coverage through new insurance exchanges as long as they meet certain federal standards.
But the reform does not create a new public health insurance plan, and it doesn’t eliminate the private health insurance industry. In fact, more people will become enrolled in private insurance plans under the reform, according to budget office projections.
In response to our findings, the committee didn’t back down from its original claims.
"Democrats stole from seniors’ Medicare benefits to pay for their government takeover of healthcare," NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in an e-mail. "Their addiction to government spending sprees has crossed the line by threatening seniors’ access to healthcare, and New Jersey families will stop this reckless behavior this November."
In news releases, the committee claimed Holt, Pallone and Pascrell are "willing to jeopardize seniors’ access to coverage by gutting $741 billion from Medicare" to pay for a "big-government healthcare takeover."
The health care reform is projected to reduce future Medicare spending by more than $700 billion between 2013 and 2022, but program spending will still increase. That increase will just be smaller than without the reform.
The "healthcare takeover" claim remains bogus, because the private health insurance industry remains intact under the reform and stands to gain more enrollees.
There’s only one ruling for such heated and misleading claims: Pants on Fire!
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