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Attacks that say a candidate would "end Medicare" have typically come from Democrats. But this one comes from the Republicans.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is airing an ad attacking David Gill, the Democratic nominee in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, an open seat that includes portions of Springfield, Decatur and Champaign. Gill is running against Republican Rodney Davis, a former congressional aide and state party executive director.
Here’s the transcript of the ad:
Narrator: Politician David Gill supports keeping the new health care law, gutting Medicare. But Gill wanted to go further: forcing each American into government-run health care. And to pay for it, Gill supported a new income tax.
Gill (from file video): It would be a 2 percent tax. We could do away with your Medicare tax, because Medicare would no longer exist.
Narrator: David Gill: His plan would end Medicare.
Gill (from file video): Medicare would no longer exist.
Is it true that Gill's plan "would end Medicare"?
The NRCC pointed us to a 2004 editorial in the Pantagraph, a newspaper in Bloomington, Ill.
"Gill supports, in concept, a national plan put forth by Physicians for National Health Care," the editorial said. "It would require a 2 percent individual income tax and a 7 percent business payroll tax to provide health care to everyone at a cost of about $1.7 trillion a year. Gill emphasized that he is not married to the exact percentages. It would replace the need for Medicare, employer/employee health insurance premiums and the private health insurance industry."
The NRCC also provided the full video excerpt, from a candidate debate on public television. In the video, Gill speaks favorably of the Physicians for National Health Care plan, though he added, as the editorial noted, that he’s "not married to … particular numbers" in the plan.
NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill said that "Americans would be forced into government-run healthcare, and taxes would be raised to pay for it all."
So what is Physicians for National Health Care, and what was their plan? The group bills itself as "the only national physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program."
A single-payer system is one in which the government pays for everyone’s health care, rather than insurance companies. In the debate over health care legislation in 2009, single-payer plans held some appeal among liberal Democrats, but President Barack Obama -- much to the chagrin of many in his own party -- decided to go for a less-aggressive approach that retained a significant role for private insurance companies.
The proposal Gill was referring to was published on Aug. 30, 2003, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it remains on the physician group’s website. Here’s an excerpt, with some key points in bold:
"We envision a national health insurance program that builds upon the strengths of the current Medicare system. Coverage would be extended to all age groups, and expanded to include prescription medications and long term care. Payment mechanisms would be structured to improve efficiency and assure prompt reimbursement, while reducing bureaucracy and cost shifting. Health planning would be enhanced to improve the availability of resources and minimize wasteful duplication. Finally, investor-owned facilities would be phased out."
So let’s put this in perspective. The NRCC isn’t merely criticizing Gill’s "plan" -- one he praised with some limitations eight years ago, a time well before passage of President Barack Obama’s health care bill, which was intended to solve some of the health care policy challenges Gill perceived in 2004. Instead, the NRCC is also saying it’s Gill’s intention to "end Medicare."
But that’s true only in an Alice in Wonderland sense. The Physicians for National Health Care plan would "end" Medicare only because it would aim to put everyone -- not just senior citizens -- in a system designed to run, yes, just like Medicare.
The NRCC ad claims, "David Gill: His plan would end Medicare."
But we find that's a ridiculous claim that ignores the sweeping nature of what he supported. He actually supported an expansion of a government-run plan so that everyone would have Medicare-like coverage -- including seniors.
The NRCC ad completely distorts the plan in an attempt to scare seniors. Pants on Fire!
National Republican Congressional Committee, "Exist" (ad), Sept. 10, 2012
Physicians for National Health Care, Proposal of the Physicians' Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance, accessed Sept. 28, 2012
Cook Political Report, Illinois 13th congressional district home page, accessed Sept. 28, 2012 (subscribers only)
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.), "Tim Johnson should be re-elected in 15th District," Oct. 20, 2004 (accessed via Nexis)
Video excerpt of 2004 congressional debate between Rep. Tim Johnson and challenger David Gill, provided by NRCC
Email interview with Katie Prill, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Sept. 28, 2012
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