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Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West pulled out some familiar talking points on the 2010 health care law in a recent Fox News interview.
It was Democrats who cut $500 billion from Medicare, he said. An unelected board will make decisions about health care for seniors and all Americans, he said.
Similar statements by Republican politicians have earned rulings from Half True to False.
But in the world of PolitiFact, specific word choice matters.
How do West's words hold up?
He spoke with Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Oct. 14, 2011. Here's part of their exchange:
CAVUTO: "There's concern in your state, sir, that going after entitlements and going after the spending in entitlements, that you're going after granny, that you particularly are going after granny. And that's been the one thing the Democrats are trying to stick to you. What do you say?"
WEST: "Well, they tried that. And, as a matter of fact, they have failed miserably, because, as a matter of fact, in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it was the Democrats who cut $500 billion from Medicare. And they also put in place the Independent Payment Advisory Board, 15 unelected bureaucrats, which will be making decisions about health care for our seniors and for all Americans."
He then said he supported, instead, the premium support plan that's part of Rep. Paul Ryan's "Path to Prosperity." (Some Democrats have claimed the plan, which shifts the burden for rising health costs to seniors over time, eliminates Medicare. We've ruled that claim False.)
We'll look at two claims from the interview, one at a time. The first is that, "In the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it was the Democrats who cut $500 billion from Medicare." The second is that "they also put in place the Independent Payment Advisory Board, 15 unelected bureaucrats, which will be making decisions about health care for our seniors and for all Americans."
We've previously weighed statements that the 2010 health care law "cut Medicare." We've listed many among our sources for this item, but here are a few: The 60 Plus Association said the law "will cut $500 billion from Medicare. That will hurt the quality of our care." (We ruled that Mostly False.) On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney said "Obamacare takes $500 billion out of Medicare and funds Obamacare." (Half True) In Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio said, "The only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare spending are the people who voted in favor of Obamacare. That’s a fact." (Mostly False.)
In those fact-checks, we pointed out that the law doesn't take $500 billion out of the current Medicare budget. It attempts to slow the program's growth, trimming more than $500 billion in projected spending over a decade. Medicare spending will still increase, from $499 billion in 2009 to $929 billion in 2020.
But those items include other context West doesn't include — he isn't talking about quality of care, for example.
West didn't attempt to clarify that Democrats cut future spending, or cut the rate of growth. His spokeswoman, Angela Sachitano, provided evidence from the Congressional Budget Office and news sources that the reduction would result in lower projected Medicare spending over a decade. But West merely said "cut $500 billion from Medicare," a misleading oversimplification. The statement is partially accurate, but leaves out important details.
West's second claim, that the law "put in place the Independent Payment Advisory Board, 15 unelected bureaucrats, which will be making decisions about health care for our seniors and for all Americans," should also be familiar to loyal PolitiFact readers.
Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann said something similar in an Oct. 11, 2011, debate: "These 15 political appointees (on the IPAB) will make all the major health care decisions for over 300 million Americans." We rated that False.
Now, West's claim is more restrained. He doesn't say the board will make "all the major health care decisions," merely that it "will be making decisions about health care."
So what is the board, and what is it tasked with?
The health care law directs a new national board — with 15 members who are political appointees — to identify $15.5 billion in Medicare savings.
It's forbidden from submitting "any recommendation to ration health care," as Section 3403 of the health care law states. It may not raise premiums for Medicare beneficiaries or increase deductibles, coinsurance or co-payments. The IPAB also cannot change who is eligible for Medicare, restrict benefits or make recommendations that would raise revenue.
What it can do is reduce how much the government pays health care providers for services, reduce payments to hospitals with very high rates of re-admissions or recommend innovations that cut wasteful spending. Some may argue that because the IPAB can reduce the money a doctor receives for giving chemotherapy to a Medicare patient, this could lead to an indirect form of rationing.
But the board wouldn't make any health care decisions for individual Americans. And it wouldn't directly make decisions about health care "for all Americans." Instead, as PolitiFact Georgia has reported, it would make broad policy decisions that affect Medicare's overall cost. This statement also contains some element of truth, but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.
West used two common talking points in his Fox News interview. The first, which we've checked repeatedly, is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act "cut $500 billion from Medicare." The statement leaves out important details.
The second, that the health care law "put in place the Independent Payment Advisory Board, 15 unelected bureaucrats, which will be making decisions about health care for our seniors and for all Americans," also ignores facts that would give a different impression.
We recognize it's not always easy to give context in a fast-paced TV interview, but a just few more words ("will cut projected Medicare spending by" or "will be making decisions about Medicare spending") would have dramatically boosted West's truth quotient. Overall we find his claims Mostly False.
Fox News Network, "Your World with Neil Cavuto," Oct. 14, 2011, via Nexis
E-mail interview with Angela Sachitano, communications director for Rep. Allen West, Oct. 31, 2011
PolitiFact, "Vice President Joe Biden says Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal would eliminate Medicare in 10 years," Sept. 7, 2011 (False)
PolitiFact, "IPAB board is 15 bureaucrats who will decide for the nation, says Michele Bachmann," Oct. 12, 2011 (False)
PolitiFact Georgia, "Gingrey claims federal health care board can decide if you get dialysis, chemo," Aug. 2, 2011 (False)
PolitiFact Florida, "Mike Haridopolos takes on health care bill in newspaper op-ed," June 10, 2011 (Half True)
PolitiFact, "$500 billion from Medicare for Obamacare, Mitt Romney says," June 16, 2011 (Half True)
PolitiFact Florida, "Sen. Marco Rubio says those who voted for federal health care law also voted to cut $500 billion from Medicare," May 10, 2011 (Mostly False)
PolitiFact Ohio, "Rep. Jim Renacci characterizes Medicare saving in health reform law as cuts," Feb 2, 2011 (Mostly False)
PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Ron Johnson says Sen. Russ Feingold cut Medicare by $523 billion," Oct. 7, 2010 (Mostly False)
PolitiFact Oregon, "Scott Bruun says Kurt Schrader cut $500 billion from Medicare, hurting seniors," Sept. 30, 2010 (Mostly False)
PolitiFact, "Medicare 'cuts' in the health care law will hurt seniors, says 60 Plus Association," Sept. 20, 2010 (Mostly False)
PolitiFact, Rick Scott says Alex Sink wants to cut Medicare, Sept. 2, 2010 (False)
PolitiFact, Obama claims Medicare benefits will not be cut under the health care bill, Aug. 14, 2009 (Half True)
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