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U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass survived a challenge from four opponents in this week’s Republican primary. But, even as the election approached, Bass was already focusing his attacks more on his Democratic challenger, Concord attorney Ann McLane Kuster.
In an ad released August 27, 2012, Bass, a Peterborough Republican, attacks Kuster, his opponent in the 2010 campaign, for being a hyper-liberal partisan, citing her support for the national health care reform law as evidence.
"She supports the government takeover of healthcare, which robs Medicare of over $700 billion," a narrator says in the ad, titled "Not Working."
"Annie, that’s not working together," the narrator scolds. "That’s not working for any of us."
Kuster, who lostto Bass by 1.6 percent of the vote in the 2010 campaign, has been outspoken in her support of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In August of 2010, as referenced in Bass’ ad, she told WMUR-TV "I think health care reform was a historic first step."
"Thirty million Americans will now have health insurance … and we've prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage right when you need it most," she said at the time.
But, does her support for the Affordable Care Act really translate to support for a government takeover of health care? And does the health care law really "rob" $700 billion from Medicare?
According to past PolitiFact rulings, the answer is no.
In past rulings, PolitiFact has disagreed strongly with the classification of the Affordable Care Act as a government takeover of healthcare. In recent months, these rulings have ranged from False to Pants on Fire, and in 2010, PolitiFact editors named the claim its Lie of the Year.
In that ruling, PolitiFact reported that the term "government takeover" refers to a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and doctors are public employees. By contrast, under the Affordable Care Act, the government will not take control of hospitals or doctors. Employers will continue to provide health insurance to most patients through private insurance companies, and the law does not include a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers, the article noted.
"The label 'government takeover’ has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a ‘takeover.," Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said at the time.
Looking to the second part of Bass’ statement, PolitiFact has also taken issue with similar claims about the Affordable Care Act robbing Medicare.
Last month, for instance, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney earned a Mostly False rating for his claim that Obama "robbed Medicare (of) $716 billion to pay for for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare." In this fact-check,PolitiFact noted that neither Obama nor his health care law literally cut any money from the Medicare budget.
Instead, the law included a number of changes seeking to lower future Medicare costs. Initially, the Congressional Budget Office estimated those reductions to total about $507 billion between 2012 and 2021. But, more recently, the CBO updated its projected reductions to about $716 billion between 2013 and 2022.
Bass references this updated figure in his attack on Kuster, but neither in his ad, nor in Romney’s claim, can these spending reductions be reasonably considered "robbing."
As noted in the Romney piece, Democrats included the Medicare cuts in the law to avoid adding to the deficit, and the proposal was debated in the open for many weeks as it made its way through Congress.
Several days after his initial claim, Romney made another reference to the Medicare cuts, this time says that the president’s plan "cuts Medicare by $716 billion, takes that money out of the Medicare trust fund and uses it to pay for Obamacare."
PolitiFact rated that statement Half True, saying that, although Romney’s got his numbers right, his claim suggests that the law re-routes funding already allocated to Medicare to finance the health care law. As noted before, the law works to reduce future Medicare spending and frees up savings that are then used to offset the costs of the health care law.
As a sidenote, PolitiFact has also ruled that Romney’s vice presidential nominee, U.S. Rep Paul Ryan, relies on the same $700 billion in Medicare savings in his own budget plan.
Had Bass been careful in his wording, there might have been some truth to his claims. Kuster has expressed support for the Affordable Care Act, and the law has been shown to reduce Medicare spending by $700 billion. But, instead, the Congressman repeated past claims that the Care Act constitutes a "government takeover" of health care, and that it "robs" $700 billion from Medicare.
The government takeover part is so wrong it's been rated Pants on Fire; the Medicare part is Mostly False. On balance, we rate the full claim False.
U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, "Not Working," August 27, 2012
WMUR-TV, "10 Question with Ann McLane Kuster: #5 Health Care," August 20, 2010
PolitiFact.com, "George Allen calls health care law a government takeover," July 1, 2012
PolitiFact.com, "Tommy Thompson says federal health care reforms are a ‘government takeover of health care,’" June 24, 2012
PolitiFact.com, "PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘A government takeover of health care,’" December 16, 2010
PolitiFact.com, "Mitt Romney said Barack Obama robs Medicare of more than $700 billion to pay for Obamacare," August 15, 2012
Congressional Budget Office, "CBO’s Analysis of the Major Health Care Legislation Enacted in March 2010," March 30, 2011
Congressional Budget Office, letter to House Speaker John Boehner, July 24, 2012
PolitiFact.com, "Romney says Obama ‘cuts’ 716B from Medicare to pay for Obamacare," August 20, 2012
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