Last updated on 2014.05.16
Republican John Tsitrian and I have both said Mike Rounds's claim that the Affordable Care Act reduces Medicare benefits is bogus. No seniors are losing benefits, and the Paul Ryan budget makes the same cuts.
Now regular journalist David Montgomery weighs in, saying Rounds is mostly wrong:
It’s true that the Affordable Care Act will spend about $718 billion less on Medicare during the next decade than would have happened without the law — around a 10 percent reduction. The overall budget for Medicare still is expected to go up over this time — just less quickly than it otherwise would have.
...It’s also true that while the money will be removed from future Medicare budgets, it won’t be withdrawn from the Medicare trust fund, as the ad’s use of the word “taken” could imply [David Montgomery, "A Closer Look at Medicare Claims in U.S. Senate Ads," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.05.14].
The ACA was passed in 2009. It started imposing savings on Medicare Advantage in 2010. The "cuts" (read Montgomery again: funding still increasing, just not as fast as it would have sans ACA) Mike Rounds talks about are already happening. What bad things have happened to seniors? None, says Politifact:
So far, Obamacare hasn’t harmed Medicare Advantage. Coverage has stayed largely the same, premiums have been flat and enrollment has gone up since the legislation became law [Joshua Gillin, "Political Attacks in Governor's Race Make Medicare Claims Confusing," Politifact.com, 2014.04.09].
Post-ACA, Medicare Advantage is covering more people, not fewer. Politifact, which Montgomery cites in his report, deems Rounds-like Medicare claims made in other races around the country Mostly False. But straining to be fair and to avoid any 2004-like accusations that the paper is in the tank for Democrats, Montgomery says that Rounds can get by with his claim by resorting, as is his wont (q.v.: EB-5, structural deficit) , to semantics:
Rounds’ ad, though, is phrased carefully. It says the $700 billion cut “can” end up limiting health care for seniors — not that it definitely will. On Tuesday, Rounds said he thinks that’s a “very likely” outcome but isn’t necessarily certain.
This keeps the ad’s claim factually correct, though the ad omits important context about the cuts. Some similar claims about the Medicare cuts that fact-checkers have ruled untrue have used stronger language saying seniors will suffer, not that they might [Montgomery, 2014.05.14].
Rounds gets a pass because he does the can-can. Great. I can say that Rounds is threatening senior citizens by not dedicating more money to asteroid defense, because an asteroid impact can end up limiting health care for seniors, but I don't see anyone leaping to take away health insurance from up to 27.7 million people just because of that can.
Republicans, do truth a favor, and kick Mike Rounds's can to the curb.