“In North Carolina we put families first, but Senate candidate Thom Tillis sides with health insurance companies. He’d let them deny coverage for preexisting conditions and raise rates for women needing mammograms. Tillis supports a plan that would end Medicare as we know it and force seniors to spend up to $1700 more on prescriptions. He’s with the special interests, hurting North Carolina families.”
— new Political Majority USA ad attacking North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis
Last week, we faulted the Thom Tillis campaign for a misleading ad concerning the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, in his challenge to Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).
Now, the pro-Democratic group Political Majority USA has fired back at Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House, with an ad that seeks to blunt the attacks on the health-care law with warnings about what would happen it were repealed. In terms of political strategy, the approach may make sense: Even though the health-care law is unpopular, repealing it does even worse in polling. The ad also suggests Democrats see an edge in embracing the law, rather than running away from it.
The ad also asserts that Tillis supports a plan that “would end Medicare as we know it.” The Fact Checker awarded the group Four Pinocchios for an earlier ad that said a GOP plan would “end Medicare.” The addition of “as we know it” appears to be a tweak to address that critique, though it certainly leaves the same impression.
We will focus our attention on the Obamacare claims. How do those charges hold up?
The ad seeks to highlight three of the more popular provisions in the law: no more denying coverage for preexisting conditions; free preventive services such as mammograms; a gradual elimination (by 2020) of the “doughnut hole,” or coverage gap, in the Medicare prescription drug program. (The coverage gap accounts for the ad’s claim that $1,700 more would be spent on prescriptions, if it were 2020, but some of coverage gap still exists.)
The whole ad hinges on the idea that Tillis would vote to repeal the health-care law and then not do anything else and in doing so, “sides with health insurance companies.”
But Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw says that the candidate thinks there “are many good ideas” in a conservative alternative unveiled by other senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr (R), as well as Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.) “As it relates to this ad and the ACA, Speaker Tillis’s opposition to Obamacare should not be seen as opposition to working toward solutions that result in lower costs and improved access to health insurance,” Shaw said. The Burr/Coburn/Hatch plan “is definitely a better option than the Affordable Care Act and a positive step toward a conservative alternative.”
Indeed, one of the sources cited in the ad, a USA Today article, quotes a conservative analyst as saying that, in the wake of the law’s implementation, any repeal of it would require an alternative that kept key elements in place:
Bob Moffitt, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Center for Policy Innovation, said any repeal would have to be followed by a new law that includes many similar elements. Those include health insurance plans for those with pre-existing conditions and the ability for people to keep insurance purchased through health exchanges.
Moffitt cited the recent proposal from Republican Sens. Richard Burr, Orrin Hatch and Tom Coburn as a way to maintain those benefits.
We make no judgment on the specifics of the Burr/Coburn/Hatch proposal; critics on the left have faulted the provision concerning preexisting conditions as being not as comprehensive as the ACA. Notably, however, the proposal makes no changes to the Medicare aspects, presumably meaning that the ACA’s gradual elimination of the doughnut hole would remain on course.
The fact remains that there is a serious alternative to Obamacare, so it is difficult for Democrats to continue to claim that Republicans want to wipe the slate clean.
Ty Matsdorf, a spokesman for Political Majority USA, said that Tillis “has been extremely vocal about repeal” but has not offered an alternative. “They might like some of the provisions [of Burr/Coburn/Hatch], but that is very different than having a concrete replacement proposal after repeal.”
The Pinocchio Test
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act makes it increasingly difficult to ever repeal it. In effect, the introduction of a Republican alternative means that senior lawmakers recognize that they will only be able to revise it, while leaving other parts intact.
Yet for reasons of internal GOP politics, every candidate appears to be expected to pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, thus giving Democrats an opening to claim that Republicans — if only briefly — want to go back to the old insurance regime. But just as repeal is increasingly not credible, neither are claims that Republicans simply want to turn back the clock. (Tillis, however, certainly would have a better defense if he specifically embraced or proposed an alternative.)
The Obamacare portion of this ad earns Two Pinocchios.
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