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Joshua Gillin
By Joshua Gillin August 9, 2012

TV ad says Bill Nelson supported cutting Medicare by $500 billion to fund new government programs

An attack ad by a conservative outside spending group blames Sen. Bill Nelson for cutting billions from Medicare by voting for the Affordable Care Act. The ad is getting plenty of airplay, despite PolitiFact repeatedly finding the ad’s claims untrue.  (We swear, our feelings aren’t hurt.)

So what exactly is wrong with the claim in American Commitment’s commercial this time?

In the ad, which is titled "Facts," a narrator intones that "Nelson’s health care vote imposes the largest tax increase in history on the middle class, cuts $500 billion from Medicare to pay for new government programs, and millions could lose their current coverage."

American Commitment told PolitiFact they refused to work with us, citing previous Truth-O-Meter rulings with which they didn’t agree. Nelson’s lawyers in May asked Florida television stations to not air a commercial from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that made similar claims. The stations refused.

For this item, we’ll skip the tax increase claim (which we’ve called Pants on Fire) or the loss of coverage (which we’ve called False), but will focus on the $500 billion in cuts.

This is a standard conservative talking point after the passage of the president’s health care bill, focusing on a $500 billion reduction in projected spending that is an integral part of the federal health care law. These reductions include the amount of annual increases health care providers would receive from Medicare, administrative changes and alterations to Medicare Advantage.

The difference, PolitiFact has repeatedly ruled, is that these don’t represent cuts, but rather an attempt to curtail future Medicare spending. The program is still projected to grow, the Congressional Budget Office predicts, just at a slower rate under the so-called Obamacare guidelines.

Those savings, which the commercial says are being taken to fund "other government programs," are alterations to the way health coverage is paid for. One of those ways is to increase the scope of Medicaid. Another is to expand coverage of prevention services. A third is to help cover the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" for prescription drugs.

Nelson was among the 60 votes in favor of the bill on Dec. 24, 2009, providing the cloture needed to prevent the bill from being filibustered. That has drawn the ire of the bill’s opponents and conservative groups like American Commitment, which have charged all 59 Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders all cast the "deciding vote" -- yet another claim we’ve ruled False, because several other senators’ votes were much more crucial.

The ruling

American Commitment claims Bill Nelson voted to slash $500 billion from Medicare to fund other programs. Our previous rulings have shown that there is no vast well of money already allocated that is being cut, and the programs being funded are a part of government health care services, of which Medicare is the largest.

Yet again, we rate this claim as Mostly False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

U.S. Senate, "Roll Call Votes 111th Congress (H.R. 3590 as Amended)," Dec. 24, 2009

U.S. House of Representatives Office of the Clerk, "Final results for Roll Call 277," April 15, 2011

YouTube, "Facts" ad by American Commitment, July 5, 2012

PolitiFact, "Chamber says Bill Nelson voted to cut Medicare $500 billion," May 9, 2012

PolitiFact, ""Obamacare takes $500 billion out of Medicare and funds Obamacare," June 13, 2011

Politifact, "Another outside group says Bill Nelson was the deciding vote," July 10, 2012

PolitiFact, "Mitt Romney says ‘Obamacare’ means up to 20 million Americans will lose insurance they like and want," June 28, 2012

PolitiFact, "Health care law "largest tax increase in history on the middle class," says TV ad," June 28, 2012

Email interview with Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Aug. 6-7, 2012

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TV ad says Bill Nelson supported cutting Medicare by $500 billion to fund new government programs

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