In the race for Alabama’s Senate seat, Democratic candidate Doug Jones is warning that Republican nominee Roy Moore’s small government conservatism could imperil federal programs that provide health care to millions of Americans.
"My opponent in this race has advocated getting the federal government out of health care altogether, which means doing away with Medicaid, which means doing away with Medicare," Jones said in a Sept. 27 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press Daily.
With the Dec. 12 general election drawing near, we wondered whether Jones had accurately stated Moore’s small government approach to health care reform.
Jones put words in Moore's mouth.
Jones' campaign pointed to this statement from Moore’s spokesman:
"Roy Moore wants to make sure that the federal government is getting out of the health care business entirely," Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead said in a Sept. 23 press release, which highlighted differences between Moore and his former Republican rival Sen. Luther Strange on the issue of Obamacare repeal.
There is a subtle but crucial difference between Armistead’s and Jones’ statements. Jones said Moore wants the federal government out of health care — Moore’s spokesman said he wants the federal government out of the health care business.
The space between those statements is the crux of this fact-check.
For more than 50 years, the federal government has played a role in giving health insurance to the poor and elderly through Medicaid and Medicare. These public insurance programs are distinct from the kind of private insurance customers can buy from companies like Unitedhealth and Aetna.
While Moore clearly supports shrinking the federal government, the key question is whether Moore wants the federal government out of private insurance only, or if he also wants the federal government to end its role in public programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, as Jones said.
Moore’s campaign declined to say if he wants to do away with Medicaid or Medicare. A description of his policy positions on his campaign website is silent as to these specific programs, and we were unable to find a single instance where Moore explicitly called to end the government’s role in public insurance.
What we did find were numerous examples of Moore calling for the repeal of Obamacare.
"We do not need socialized medicine which will ultimately lead to loss of quality and affordability of heath care, as well as a loss of access to the latest medical technology. Obamacare should be completely repealed as soon as possible," Moore’s campaign website states.
It’s unclear exactly what Moore would like to see Obamacare replaced with. But the record seems to suggest he’s amenable to the federal government playing some role in Medicaid and Medicare into the future.
One clue is Moore’s support for the House-passed American Health Care Act. That bill would have curtailed, but not abolished, Medicaid, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It would not have eliminated Medicare either.
"Obamacare has not been fully repealed, although steps have been made in the right direction, and I support the bill that has passed Congress," Moore said in a Sept. 21 Republican primary debate against Strange.
An interview Moore gave to the Montgomery Advertiser suggests he recognized the federal government’s fundamental role in public insurance as a given even before Obamacare took effect.
"It’s not the role of the government to be involved in health insurance," Moore told the Montgomery Advertiser June 27. "Before Obama came in, the federal government wasn’t involved, except for Medicaid and Medicare, with health insurance."
A Moore profile in the July 24 Montgomery Advertiser described him as "noncommittal on cuts to Medicaid." With respect to Republican replacement efforts at the time, Moore said he "would have to see what cuts they’re talking about" for Medicaid before he took a position. That’s a far cry from calling to abolish the program.
It’s possible Moore may take a harder line on public insurance programs in the future. But for now, we’ve found no evidence he wants to abolish Medicaid or Medicare.
Jones said Moore wants to end the federal government’s role in Medicaid and Medicare.
The record clearly demonstrates Moore wants to repeal Obamacare. He may not have articulated what he wants the health insurance system to look like, but we found no evidence to suggest he wants to end the federal government’s role in Medicaid and Medicare.
We rate Jones’ statement False.