“Kay Hagan helped pass Obamacare, then thousands of North Carolinians were told their insurance policies were canceled. Hagan’s vote for Obamacare cut over $700 billion from our Medicare.”
–voiceover of new Crossroads GPS ad against Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)
This advertisement from the pro-GOP group Crossroads GPS is almost like an oldies record of top tunes lambasting the Affordable Care Act—and it has the same dated feel as well. Just about everything in this ad has been called into question before, with the exception of its opening scenes—which highlight that our colleagues at PolitiFact had deemed President Obama’s promise that you could keep your health-care plan the “Lie of the Year.”
No argument about that – Obama’s statement was also one of the Biggest Pinocchios of 2013—but even the Lie of the Year reference seems dated. (We have seen it in what feels like a gadzillion ads.) Let’s look at the other elements of this ad.
“Hagen’s Vote Passed Obamacare”
The ad does not quite claim that Hagan cast the “deciding vote” but it comes close. The Senate’s version of the legislation was passed by a vote of 60 to 38, after Democrats voted to end debate and advance the bill.
Every Democrat in the Senate, including Hagen, voted for that bill. But it was never officially reconciled with a House version because the Democrats lost the Massachusetts Senate seat in a special election. So an amendment of the Senate bill, crafted in the House, was finally passed on March 25 under a procedure that avoided the 60-vote requirement. That bill only needed 50 votes, and it passed 56 to 43, with Hagan voting with the majority.
“473,724 North Carolinians Received Insurance Cancellations”
This number seems high because generally states have reported how many policies were canceled, not how many people were affected. In the case of North Carolina, the number of policies was 183,821—before the Obama administration announced rules that would allow people to keep their policies for at least another year in many states.
Republicans used to love to compare the number of cancellations with the number of sign-ups; we have explained repeatedly that the cancellations and the sign-ups are hard to compare as they are really apples and oranges. But it’s especially absurd to bring this up now that the law has met its enrollment targets.
As it turns out, significantly more policies were purchased in North Carolina on the Obamacare exchange—357,584 policies, according to the Web site ACAsignups.net. That’s nearly double the number of “cancellations,” even though North Carolina was a state that chose not to accept the provision of expanded Medicaid in the law.
Small wonder the ad doesn’t try to make that comparison.
“Obamacare cut Medicare $700 billion+”
Now this is really old! This claim was repeatedly made during the 2012 presidential campaign by the Mitt Romney campaign, so one wonders why it would still be considered effective now. (The ad then further cites a University of Minnesota study that says $16.5 billion would be taken from Medicare in North Carolina.)
The $700 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years (2013-2022) between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as “the baseline”) and the changes that the law makes to reduce spending. The savings mostly are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries — who, as a result of the health-care law, ended up with new benefits for preventive care and prescription drugs. (It is worth noting that, given past practices, the Medicare actuary has doubted whether all of the planned cuts actually will come to pass.)
While it is correct that anticipated savings from Medicare were used to help offset some of the anticipated costs of expanding health care for all Americans, it does not affect the Medicare trust fund. In fact, the Obama health-care law also raised Medicare payroll taxes by $318 billion over the new 10-year time frame, further strengthening the program’s financial condition.
Under the health-care law, spending does not decrease in Medicare year after year; the reduction is from anticipated levels of spending in future years. Moreover, the “cuts” did not come at the expense of seniors, even though the ad suggests that by having the voiceover refer to cuts to “our Medicare.” (Crossroads GPS spokesman Paul Lindsay responded: “If it’s not cutting ‘our’ Medicare then whose is it cutting?”)
Moreover, it worth noting the House Republican budget plan retains virtually all of the Medicare “cuts” contained in the health-care law, but diverts them instead to their Medicare overhaul. Not to be a cynic, but one could presume that had it been a Republican plan that had passed, the Democrats would be running ads about the “cuts.”
This actually happened back in 1996. Then-President Bill Clinton denounced Republicans for wanting to pass hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, and Republicans responded it was merely a “reduction in the rate of growth.” As The Fact Checker wrote at the time:
Minutes after Clinton finished, a fuming House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) held his own news conference in Seattle and pronounced himself “very, very disappointed” in Clinton’s remarks. He accused the president of making “misleading claims, misleading information and misleading offers” and said Clinton was playing “a political game” that makes negotiating harder.
Adopting a professorial air, Gingrich stood in front of an easel and scribbled figures to underscore his contention that the Republican budget increases Medicare and Medicaid spending over the next seven years. For instance, he said, Medicare spending would go from $926 billion to $1.684 trillion.
“In any reasonable forum, this is not a cut,” Gingrich said.
The Pinocchio Test
Unlike wine, tired talking points don’t age well. None of these claims are outlandish, but they miss important context and details. In the past they have earned Two Pinocchios, and that is what this ad earns as well.
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