Friday, September 19th, 2014

Democrats persist with false Medicare claim

The GOP plan would have overhauled Medicare, but not ended it.
The GOP plan would have overhauled Medicare, but not ended it.

Here they go again.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched a new blitz telling voters in many Republican districts across the country that their congressman voted to end Medicare. PolitiFact -- and some of our colleagues in the fact-checking business -- have looked into the claim several times and rated it False. But the the DCCC takes the bullets and lurches on.

The organization announced last week the start of its "Accountability August" campaign aimed at 44 "vulnerable" House Republicans who backed an unsuccessful GOP plan to overhaul Medicare. One Virginian is on the list: freshman Rep. Scott Rigell, R-2nd.

The DCCC says it will blast the districts of Rigell and the others with "radio ads, billboards, gas station advertising, community meetings, door-to-door canvasses, phone banks, virtual phone banks and automated calls."

The radio ad says: "Congressman Scott Rigell voted to end Medicare, forcing seniors to pay more to protect tax breaks for Big Oil and millionaires."

The script for the automated calls says "Hi, this is (name of caller) from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee calling about Congressman’s Scott Rigell’s vote to end Medicare in order to protect millionaires."

In June, the DCCC targeted several dozen other Republican congressmen -- including Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th -- with a similar campaign.

The basis of the claim is an April 15 partisan vote in which House Republicans passed a budget resolution embracing proposals that would have overhauled Medicare for young and middle-aged Americans. The plan was put forward by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, chairman of the House Budget Committee, in an effort to cut government spending. The measure died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Ryan proposed replacing today’s Medicare program with a "premium support payment." In 2022, new beneficiaries would have bought plans from private insurance companies with financial assistance from the government. People who needed more health care would have gotten a little more money. Some called it a voucher program, but Ryan said it was not because the government would have paid the insurance companies directly.

The proposal required private insurers to accept all applicants and to charge the same rate for people who are the same age. The plans would have had to comply with standards to be set by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which administers the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Ryan’s measure gradually would have raised the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and provided smaller premium support to high earners.

The Ryan’s plan would have saved the federal government money at the expense of future Medicare recipients. The Congressional Budget Office estimates beneficiaries will contribute about $6,150 in premiums during 2022 if the current program isn’t changed. Under Ryan’s plan, the CBO estimated beneficiaries would have contributed $12,500 -- more than double what they’d pay under the existing plan.

So the proposal would have raised costs for future seniors. But those who were 55 or older would have been barely effected. They still would have been able to use the existing Medicare program.

No doubt, Ryan’s plan would have hugely altered Medicaid. But to say it would have ended Medicare, as the DCCC does, is a major exaggeration. All seniors -- current and future -- would have been offered coverage under the proposal, and the program’s budget would have increased  every year.

The DCCC knows this.