In New Ad, Dean Scontras Lends His Own Voice To Health Care Lies

October 26, 2010 1:59 pm ET

Dean Scontras, a Republican House candidate in Maine, has released a new ad attacking Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) for her support of the Affordable Care Act. Scontras stares into the camera and sternly criticizes the "17,000 new IRS agents" and Medicare cuts he claims are in the law (which the ad falsely labels "government health care"). Luckily for all of us, neither of those things is true. The IRS line is a long-debunked misrepresentation of some back-of-the-envelope math by Republican staffers, and the bill actually strengthens — not cuts — Medicare. Scontras promises to repeal the bill, but doing so would balloon the deficit and leave millions uninsured. The sincerity is nice, but words matter; Scontras is lying to voters.

Scontras Ad: "Obamacare," IRS Agents, And Fictional Medicare Cuts

[SCONTRAS:] Over the last year, you've told me Congress is out of touch. Chellie Pingree voted for Obamacare. [On-Screen Text: GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE] She voted to add 17,000 new IRS agents. That's bad for Maine's small businesses. She voted to cut $500 billion from Medicare. That's bad for Maine's seniors. Send me to Congress, and I'll vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, simplify our tax code, and downsize the IRS. Now that's a stimulus package. My name is Dean Scontras, and I approve this message, because Maine deserves better.

Affordable Care Act Is Not "Government Health Care" — The Law Leaves The Private Health Care System Intact

PolitiFact: "Obama's Plan Leaves In Place The Private Health Care System." Analyzing Sen. Tom Coburn's claim that President Obama's health care reform plan amounted to a government takeover of health care, PolitiFact.com wrote:

[H]e's wrong that Obama's plan offers government-run health care.

In fact, Obama's plan leaves in place the private health care system, but seeks to expand it to the uninsured. It increases eligibility for the poor and children to enroll in initiatives like Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and creates pools for individuals to buy their own cheaper insurance. It also outlines strategies to rein in costs for everyone, such as electronic medical records and preventive care.

[...]

That may be Sen. Coburn's opinion on what could happen, but it's definitely not part of Obama's plan. And Coburn was very specific in saying that "under the Obama plan, all the health care in this country is eventually going to be run by the government." That gives the incorrect impression that Obama is promoting a government-run health care system. He's not. We rate Coburn's statement False.

[PolitiFact.com, 3/4/10, emphasis added]

"17,000 IRS Agents" A False Claim Based On Partisan Analysis Of Bill

FactCheck.org: "This Wildly Inaccurate Claim Started As An Inflated, Partisan Assertion." In a fact check of various Republican claims about thousands of new, armed IRS agents required by the Affordable Care Act, the non-partisan FactCheck.org wrote:

Q: Will the IRS hire 16,500 new agents to enforce the health care law?

A: No. The law requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation...

This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS "agents" would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true. [FactCheck.org, 3/30/10; emphasis original]

FactCheck.org: Claim Based On Bad Assumptions In Misleading Republican Staff Report. In a fact check of various Republican claims about thousands of new, armed IRS agents required by the Affordable Care Act, the non-partisan FactCheck.org wrote:

This figure originated with a report put out by Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on March 18...The analysts based their 16,500 figure on an assumption that the IRS budget "could" require an additional $10 billion over the next 10 years as a result of the law, a figure they attribute to the Congressional Budget Office...The GOP analysts then inflated their estimate by making a couple of false assumptions.

No desks? First, they assume that all the new "administrative" spending projected by CBO would go for payroll and benefits - without any allowance for desks, computers, office rent, utilities, travel or other overhead costs necessary to run any government enterprise. The partisan analysts simply divided the spending (which they figured could be $1.5 billion per year once the law is fully effective) by the current average payroll cost for the entire IRS workforce...The GOP analysts then inflated their estimate by making a couple of false assumptions...

No pay raises? The second false assumption is that there will be no inflation or pay raises over the next decade. They apply fiscal 2009 cost figures to budgets for 2014 through 2019. In fact,CBO currently projects that the Employment Cost Index will rise 1.4 percent next year and reach 3 percent per year in 2015 and thereafter. Even if the partisan analysis is valid, that would further reduce the maximum number that could be hired by another 1,000 in 2014, and by about 2,800 in 2019, by our calculations.  [FactCheck.org, 3/30/10; emphasis original]

The Affordable Care Act Strengthens Medicare Without Cutting Benefits

FactCheck.org: Cost Saving Provisions "Not A Slashing Of The Current Medicare Budget Or Benefits." According to FactCheck.org, "Whatever you want to call them, it's a $500 billion reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits. It's true that those who get their coverage through Medicare Advantage's private plans (about 22 percent of Medicare enrollees) would see fewer add-on benefits; the bill aims to reduce the heftier payments made by the government to Medicare Advantage plans, compared with regular fee-for-service Medicare. The Democrats' bill also boosts certain benefits: It makes preventive care free and closes the 'doughnut hole,' a current gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors." [FactCheck.org, 3/19/10]

Changes To Medicare Advantage Come With Extra Benefits For All Medicare Enrollees. FactCheck.org reported: "The CBO has estimated that the move would change the value of the extra benefits Medicare Advantage participants get, but they would not receive fewer benefits than the rest of seniors who aren't on the Advantage plans. The bill does add some extras for Medicare beneficiaries, eliminating copays and deductibles for preventive services, for example." [FactCheck.org, 12/2/09; emphasis added]

Health Care Reform "Will Keep Paying Medical Bills For Seniors." According to PolitiFact.com: "The government-run Medicare program will keep paying medical bills for seniors, but it will begin implementing cost controls on health care providers, mostly through penalties and incentives. The legislation would reduce payments for hospital-acquired infections or preventable hospital admissions. For Medicare Advantage, the federal government intends to reduce extra payments, taking away subsidies to private insurance companies. Insurers will likely cut benefits in order to not lose profits. The bill does not address the 'doctor's fix,' an expected proposal that Congress usually passes to prevent doctors' Medicare payments from severe cuts." [PolitiFact.com, 3/18/10; emphasis in original]

Health Care Reform Fills The "Doughnut Hole." According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "In 2010, Part D enrollees with any spending in the coverage gap will receive a $250 rebate. Beginning in 2011, enrollees with spending in the coverage gap will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs, provided by the pharmaceutical industry. The law phases in Medicare coverage in the gap for generic drugs beginning in 2011, and for brand-name drugs beginning in 2013. By 2020, Part D enrollees will be responsible for 25 percent of the cost of both brands and generics in the gap, down from 100 percent in 2010." [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 8/25/10]

Health Care Reform Improves Medicare's Coverage Of Preventive Benefits. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "Beginning in 2011, no coinsurance or deductibles will be charged in traditional Medicare for preventive services that are rated A or B by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Medicare will cover a free annual comprehensive wellness visit and personalized prevention plan." [Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 8/25/10]

Click HERE for details on the trillions of dollars Republicans have voted to cut from Medicare.

Medicare "Cuts" Are Actually Savings From Phasing Out "Substantial Overpayment" To Medicare Advantage

CBO: Cost Changes To Medicare Made From Savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office: "Changes to the Medicare program and changes to Medicaid and CHIP other than those associated directly with expanded insurance coverage: Savings from those provisions are estimated to total $93 billion in 2019, and CBO projects that, in combination, they will increase by 10 percent to 15 percent per year in the next decade." [CBO.gov, 10/7/09]

New England Journal of Medicine: The Affordable Care Act Phases Out "Substantial Overpayments" To Medicare Advantage Plans. From the New England Journal of Medicine:

A phased elimination of the substantial overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans, which now enroll nearly 25% of Medicare beneficiaries, will produce an estimated $132 billion in savings over 10 years.

[...]

The ACA also produces nearly $200 billion in savings by assuming that providers can improve their productivity as firms in other industries have done. On the basis of this presumed improvement, the law reduces Medicare's annual "market basket" updates for most types of providers - a provision that has generated controversy. [New England Journal of Medicine7/8/10]

Cuts Would Only Affect Medicare Advantage Plans. As reported by Kaiser Health News:

The new health law will cut $136 billion in spending on the Advantage program by 2019, which currently pays private plans to administer Medicare benefits and pays them about 14 percent more than the per-patient cost of the traditional Medicare program. Plans use that subsidy to lure members with lower premium costs or extra benefits not normally paid for by Medicare, such as vision care or better prescription drug coverage. Some Democrats and analysts have argued the higher rates are wasteful. 

Even experts who support the change concede that the impact of the cuts could be evident. Robert Berenson, a scholar at the Urban Institute and former Medicare official, said some Advantage plan members will notice skimpier benefits, "but the Republicans have really exaggerated that this will wipe out the Advantage plans." 

Marsha Gold, a health policy analyst for the private research group Mathematica, said, "Over time, there will be less rich benefits or higher premiums, but it's going to be gradual," noting that the largest cuts do not begin until 2015. 

[Kaiser Health News, 4/6/10]

Medicare Advantage Costs Taxpayers 14% More Than Traditional Medicare. As reported by PolitiFact.com:

Let's back-up for a minute and explain Medicare Advantage: There are two basic ways most people get Medicare coverage. They enroll in traditional Medicare and a prescription drug plan through the government and maybe buy a supplemental policy to cover most out-of-pocket costs. Or they enroll in Medicare Advantage programs (they include drug plans), which are run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage programs typically have more generous benefits such as dental and vision coverage. Some plans even pay the patient's monthly Medicare premium, which can amount to about $100.

The Medicare Advantage program was intended to bring more efficiency from the private sector to the Medicare program, but it hasn't worked as planned. A June 2009 analysis from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said that the Advantage programs costs taxpayers on average of 14 percent more than the traditional Medicare plan. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that the Medicare Advantage plan wastes public money that could be put to better use.

[PolitiFact.com, 9/20/10]

Repealing Health Care Reform Would Increase Costs And Leave Millions Uninsured

Without Health Care Reform, Costs Would Have Increased For Everyone. In a recent report, the Urban Institute concluded that "the nation will face rapidly accelerating costs for individuals, employers and government, as well as the rate of uninsurance, if health reform is not enacted. Our analysis shows that without significant reform that makes health insurance more accessible and affordable, and reduces the rate of health care cost growth over time, the number of uninsured will increase and health care spending will increase dramatically." [The Urban Institute, 5/21/09]

CBO: Repeal Would Increase The Deficit By $455 Billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office: "The estimate of $455 billion mentioned in your letter represents the net effects of many provisions. Some of those provisions generated savings for Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program, and some generated costs. If those provisions were repealed, CBO estimates that there would be an increase in deficits similar to its original estimate of $455 billion in net savings over that period." [Congressional Budget Office, 8/24/10]

U.S. Census Bureau: Uninsured Rate Increased Between 2008 and 2009. In a recent report, the U.S. Census Bureau found that "The percentage of people without health insurance increased to 16.7 percent in 2009 from 15.4 percent in 2008. The number of uninsured people increased to 50.7 million in 2009 from 46.3 million in 2008." [U.S. Census Bureau, September 2010]

Without Health Reform, Medicaid Will Not Expand, Leaving Some Of The Poorest Individuals Uninsured. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation: "Medicaid has been key to preventing more people from being uninsured, and the share of people covered by the program increased significantly during the recession. However, Medicaid is typically only available to low-income children, parents, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and the elderly who meet strict income criteria. Adults without dependent children in most states are ineligible regardless of income (Figure 3). The new health reform law will expand Medicaid to all of the lowest income Americans in 2014." [Kaiser Family Foundation, September 2010]

Families USA: Without Health Reform, Premature Deaths Due To Lack Of Health Coverage Likely To Increase. According to Families USA: "Every day this year, approximately 68 non-elderly adults are dying prematurely due to a lack of health coverage. Without health reform, that number is estimated to reach 84 deaths a day by 2019." [Families USA, March 2010]

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