Fact Checking the Sunday Shows - February 28, 2010

March 01, 2010 9:18 am ET

On yesterday's political talk shows, Republican Senators Jon Kyl (AZ), John McCain (AZ), and Lamar Alexander (TN) along with Representatives Paul Ryan (WI), Marsha Blackburn (TN), and Eric Cantor (VA) repeated countless false talking points about Democratic health care reform proposals.

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Sen. Jon Kyl falsely stated Democratic health insurance reform bills would not impact the federal budget deficit.

SEN. JON KYL: It's not designed for this purpose; it has been used several times before, but primarily to balance the budget.  It is a budget procedure.

FACT: The Democrats' plan for health care reform has a large impact on the budget, reducing the deficit by $132 billion by 2019.

CBO: Democratic Bill Would Cost $1 Trillion, Cut Deficit By $132 Billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the Democratic health care plan:

CBO and JCT estimate that, on balance, the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act incorporating the manager's amendment would yield a net reduction in federal deficits of $132 billion over the 2010-2019 period. [Congressional Budget Office, 12/19/09]

The Democratic Bill "Covers 12 Times As Many People And Saves $36 Billion More Than The Republican Plan."  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote: "According to CBO, the GOP's alternative will shave $68 billion off the deficit in the next 10 years. The Democrats, CBO says, will slice $104 billion off the deficit. The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan." [Washington Post, 11/5/09]

CLAIM: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) falsely claimed Americans' health insurance premiums would increase under Democratic health insurance reform bills.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Perhaps the first big disagreement at the summit was the question of whether or not the Democratic plan would raise or lower people's health care premiums.  Isn't it true, in fact, that most Americans would end up paying less.

REP. PAUL RYAN: No, it's not true. The Congressional Budget Office says they will get higher premium increases, 10 to 13%.  Private actuaries put those premium increases in the double digit to triple digit territory.

FACT: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Democrats' plan for health care reform will reduce health insurance premiums.

PolitiFact: "For Most People, Premiums Would Stay About The Same, Or Slightly Decrease."  According to PolitiFact.com: "The CBO reported that, for most people, premiums would stay about the same, or slightly decrease. This was especially true for people who get their insurance through work. (Health policy wonks call these the large group and small group markets.) People who have to go out and buy insurance on their own (the individual market) would see rates increase by 10 to 13 percent. But more than half of those people -- 57 percent, in fact -- would be eligible for subsidies to help them pay for the insurance. People who get subsidies would see their premiums drop by more than half, according to the CBO. So most people would see their premiums stay the same or potentially drop." [PolitiFact.com, 1/27/10, emphasis added]

CBO: House Bill Will Result In Lower Costs For American Families.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated that in 2016, premiums will be $5,300 for an individual and $15,000 for a family of four in the Exchange.  Without reform, the average family premium is expected to grow to $24,000. [CBO, 11/2/09; House Education and Labor Committee, 11/2/09]

Gruber: Senate Bill Lowers Premiums And Improves Coverage.  In his analysis of the Senate health care bill, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber wrote: "It is worth noting that these savings are all in addition to the more generous benefits that these groups will receive through the exchange compared to the non-group market...So not only does the Senate proposal lower premiums, it does so while also improving coverage."  [Gruber, "The Senate Bill Lowers Non-Group Premiums: Updated for New CBO Estimates," 11/27/09, via Politico; emphasis added]

Senate Bill Will Cause Premiums For Low Income Americans To Drop Thousands Of Dollars.  Politico reported that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber found "that people purchasing individual insurance would save an annual $200 (singles) to $500 (families) in 2009 dollars. And people with low incomes would receive premium tax credits that would reduce the price that they pay for health insurance by as much as $2,500 to $7,500." [Politico, 11/28/09]

CLAIM: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) falsely claimed his Patient Choice Act would provide health insurance coverage for the uninsured.

REP. PAUL RYAN: The President referenced the bill that I have with Tom Coburn, Devin Nunes, and Richard Burr, which covers those 30 million [uninsured] people, which gets us toward full coverage in America.

FACT: Rep. Paul Ryan's health care bill relies on inadequate health insurance tax credits that will not provide affordable coverage for American families.

Rep. Paul Ryan's Bill Offers Families $5,710 Tax Credits. According to Rep. Paul Ryan's Patient's Choice Act of 2009: "The Patient's Choice Act of 2009 would restore equity in the tax code and give every American, regardless of employment status, the ability to purchase health insurance by: Providing an advanceable and refundable tax credit of $2,290 per individual or $5,710 per family." [Patients Choice Act, 4/09, emphasis added]

  • The Average Family's Premiums Are Currently Over $12,000. According to the National Health Care Coalition: "The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $12,700. The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,700." [NCHC.org, accessed 5/19/09; emphasis added]
  • The Average Family's Premiums Will Reach $24,000 By 2016.  According to the New America Foundation, "As health care costs continue to grow faster than wages, health insurance will become more and more unaffordable for more and more American families every day. The financial burdens associated with health care and health insurance will only get worse over time without action. The cost of the average employer-sponsored health insurance plan (ESI) for a family will reach $24,000 in 2016. This represents an 84 percent increase over 2008 premium levels. Under this scenario, we estimate that at least half of American households will need to spend more than 45 percent of their income to buy health insurance in 2016." [New America Foundation, November 2008]

This Week

CLAIM: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) claimed Americans' health insurance premiums would increase under Democratic health insurance reform bills.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER:  [Americans] don't want their premiums increased.  I mean, millions of Americans will have their premiums increased.

FACT: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Democrats' plan for health care reform will reduce health insurance premiums.

PolitiFact: "For Most People, Premiums Would Stay About The Same, Or Slightly Decrease."  According to PolitiFact.com: "The CBO reported that, for most people, premiums would stay about the same, or slightly decrease. This was especially true for people who get their insurance through work. (Health policy wonks call these the large group and small group markets.) People who have to go out and buy insurance on their own (the individual market) would see rates increase by 10 to 13 percent. But more than half of those people -- 57 percent, in fact -- would be eligible for subsidies to help them pay for the insurance. People who get subsidies would see their premiums drop by more than half, according to the CBO. So most people would see their premiums stay the same or potentially drop." [PolitiFact.com, 1/27/10, emphasis added]

CBO: House Bill Will Result In Lower Costs For American Families.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated that in 2016, premiums will be $5,300 for an individual and $15,000 for a family of four in the Exchange.  Without reform, the average family premium is expected to grow to $24,000. [CBO, 11/2/09; House Education and Labor Committee, 11/2/09]

Gruber: Senate Bill Lowers Premiums And Improves Coverage.  In his analysis of the Senate health care bill, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber wrote: "It is worth noting that these savings are all in addition to the more generous benefits that these groups will receive through the exchange compared to the non-group market...So not only does the Senate proposal lower premiums, it does so while also improving coverage."  [Gruber, "The Senate Bill Lowers Non-Group Premiums: Updated for New CBO Estimates," 11/27/09, via Politico; emphasis added]

Senate Bill Will Cause Premiums For Low Income Americans To Drop Thousands Of Dollars.  Politico reported that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber found "that people purchasing individual insurance would save an annual $200 (singles) to $500 (families) in 2009 dollars. And people with low incomes would receive premium tax credits that would reduce the price that they pay for health insurance by as much as $2,500 to $7,500." [Politico, 11/28/09]

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) falsely claimed the "budget reconciliation" process was the "nuclear option" and would require a change in Senate rules.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Throughout history, recent history anyway, the majority has always been frustrated by t he 40 vote or the 60 vote threshold in the United States Senate.  And when Republicans are in the majority, they're frustrated by the Democrats and vice versa.  I did object strongly when, during the Bush administration, when we couldn't get any judges confirmed, that there was the advocacy of the, quote, nuclear option. I objected to that, because I believed, as Robert Byrd does, that we should not be addressing these issues through 51 votes.

[...]

I objected to it strenuously, to us changing the rules of the Senate so that 51 votes would prevail.

FACT: Budget reconciliation is NOT the "nuclear option" and does not require "changing the rules of the Senate." The budget reconciliation process was created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.  The "nuclear option," however, is an extreme measure that would nullify Senate procedural rules adopted by previous Congresses.

Budget Reconciliation Is NOT The "Nuclear Option." As described by ThinkProgress' Ian Millhiser:

The most important difference between budget reconciliation and the so-called nuclear option is that the reconciliation process was created by federal law, while the "nuclear option" was dreamed up by an article published in the right-wing Federalist Society's official journal. Under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Senate may pass a law bringing federal tax and spending levels in line with a previously enacted budget resolution by a simple majority vote.  This process allows senators to bypass the filibuster when enacting health reform provisions that impact the federal budget. President Clinton used it to enact his budget in 1993, and President Bush used it to enact trillions of dollars of tax cuts for the rich in 2001 and 2003.

Conversely, the nuclear option was an unprecedented proposal to simply eliminate the filibuster altogether if 50 Senators agreed. Although there is a very strong constitutional argument that a bare majority of the Senate can eliminate the filibuster immediately after a new Senate is seated, nothing in federal law provides for the nuclear option.

The distinction here is very clear.  Reconciliation is authorized by an Act of Congress; the nuclear option is a power play dreamed up by a right-wing policy shop. As former Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist said of reconciliation, "It's legal, it's ethical, you can do it." Simply put, there's nothing "nuclear" about progressives believing that they can pass health reform by a majority vote; that's simply known as "democracy." [Think Progress, 8/20/09]

CLAIM: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) falsely claimed the Republican health care reform proposal forbids insurers from denying coverage based on a patients' preexisting conditions.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: We also say, look, we don't approve of denial of coverage for preexisting conditions. We have a plan...

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: It's not in your plan.

CANTOR: Absolutely it's in our bill.

FACT: The Republican plan allows insurance companies to deny Americans coverage for pre-existing conditions.

PolitiFact: "The GOP Plan Does Not Prohibit Health Insurance Companies From Denying Coverage To People With Pre-Existing Conditions." Analyzing claims by Rep. Wasserman Schultz, PolitiFact wrote, "Wasserman Schultz was correct when she said the GOP plan does not prohibit health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. We found nothing in the 219-page Republican plan that would do that. Insurance companies have argued that they can only absorb the cost of taking people with pre-existing conditions if they could offset that expense by expanding their customer base through mandates that everyone buy insurance. And the Republican plan doesn't do that." [PolitiFact, 11/5/09]

GOP Bill Allows Insurance Companies To Deny Americans Coverage For Pre-Existing Conditions.  In his write up of the Republican bill's CBO score, Jonathan Cohn wrote, "under the Republican bills, the CBO notes, there will be enormous variation in rates between the sick and the healthy. Remember, unlike the Democrats, the Republicans--in their determination to avoid passing new regulations--wouldn't prohibit charging people more because they have pre-existing conditions or would otherwise represent greater-than-average health risks." [The New Republic, 11/5/09]

GOP Bill Increases Premiums For Sick Americans.  Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic wrote, "yes, the Republican health care bill will lower premiums overall. But many people in poor health will see their premiums go up. And many people will get lower premiums only because they're getting inferior coverage. Meanwhile, more than 50 million people will have no insurance whatsoever." [The New Republic, 11/5/09]

Face the Nation

CLAIM: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) falsely claimed Americans do not want to see the health care system reformed.

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST: Let me just go quickly around the table, and we literally have about 20 seconds here. Senator Coburn, do you think, at this point, that health care reform of some sort is going to pass, or is it dead?

[...]

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: No, the people do no want it.

FACT: A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 63% of Americans want Congress to "keep tring to pass a comprehensive health care reform plan."

Americans Want Congress To Pass Comprehensive Health Care Reform.  According to the Washington Post, "As party leaders tussle over the proposed bipartisan health care summit, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they want Congress to keep working to pass comprehensive health-care reform. Democrats overwhelmingly support continued action on this front, as do 56 percent of independents and 42 percent of Republicans."

[Washington Post, 2/9/10]

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