Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - April 24, 2011

April 25, 2011 9:32 am ET

On Easter Sunday, two Republicans expressed the same dangerous, sweet-sounding idea about the debt limit. According to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), we needn't worry about raising the limit because the Treasury can still make interest payments without borrowing further. That may be music to voters' ears, but economists say that such a move would undermine the recovery and wipe out investor confidence in the U.S., causing the economy to spiral downward. Coburn went on to falsely claim that the president has not included entitlement reform in his debt-reduction plans. Elsewhere on Sunday, would-be 2012 candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) told Fox that the GOP's Medicare plan is "identical" to the Affordable Care Act and wouldn't cost seniors anything extra, while Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AL) told CBS that the plan does not replace traditional Medicare with a voucher system. None of these claims is true.

CLAIM: Sen. Coburn Claimed That Failing To Raise The Debt Ceiling Would Not Be "Catastrophic" Because We Could Still Make Interest Payments

SEN. TOM COBURN: A debt limit doesn't really mean anything because we've always extended it. And the, the, the Treasury secretary has the ability, even if this debt limit is not extended, he has the ability to continue to pay interest on our bonds. The, the idea that we might say that this is catastrophic is wrong, that what is catastrophic is continue to spend money that we don't have on things we don't absolutely need and continue to mortgage our future and not fix the very real problems that are in front of us. [Meet the Press, 4/24/11]

CLAIM: Rep. Walsh Claimed That We Could Make Interest Payments Without Raising The Debt Ceiling And No Harm Would Come To The Economy

REP. JOE WALSH: It is being overstated. [...] We've got enough government revenues to certainly pay to service all of our debt, and the administration knows that. And so we've got time here to deal with this program— this problem, and the administration's gotta get serious and recognize that we're not just gonna give them a vote to raise the debt ceiling unless they fundamentally change the way this city works. [Face the Nation, 4/24/11]

FACT: Economists Say That Even If We Did Not Default, Failing To Raise The Debt Limit Would Indeed Cause An Economic Catastrophe

Just By Coming Close To Default, Congress Would Rattle Investor Confidence In Loaning To U.S. As reported by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post: "By taking the debt ceiling hostage in a bid to address the deficit, Congress could provoke the exact calamity it's seeking to prevent. What we worry about when we worry about the deficit is that the market will lose confidence in our ability to pay back our debts and begin charging more to buy Treasuries. There's no quicker way to undercut the market's confidence in the U.S. government than for it walk up to the abyss of default. The likeliest disaster here will not be caused by Congress refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And, Geithner says, Congress will raise the debt ceiling. Eventually. But there'll be a lot of partisan posturing between now and then. In 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama lodged a protest vote against an increase in the debt ceiling - a vote he's since called "a mistake." Our economy, however, is weaker than it was then, our deficits are more worrying and the markets are more fragile. So the normal congressional bickering could prove especially dangerous." [Washington Post, 4/19/11, emphasis added]

  • Zandi: High Investor Confidence In Long-Term Value Of U.S. Debt Is "Cornerstone" Of Global Economy. As reported by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post: "'The cornerstone of the global financial system is that the United States will make good on its debt payments,' says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. 'If we don't, we've just knocked out the cornerstone, and the system will collapse into turmoil.' Throughout the financial crisis, America's great advantage was its status as the single safest investment in the world. That makes it easier for us to borrow money to ease a downturn. It makes it easier for our central bank to buy bonds to keep interest rates low. It gives us tools and flexibility that, say, Greece simply doesn't have. But all of that is based on the market's perception that our debt is, indeed, a safe investment, that we will pay it back, that we won't inflate our way out of the fiscal holes we dig, that our political system will make tough decisions when necessary." [Washington Post, 4/19/11, emphasis added]

Plans To Avoid Default Without Raising Debt Ceiling Sound Good But Would Undermine Economy. From the Washington Post's Ezra Klein: "In short, [Rep. Michele Bachmann's] plan is that we don't raise the debt ceiling, but we use the revenue still coming in to pay off creditors first and whatever we think most important second. That way, we 'don't violate our credit rating' and 'prioritize our spending.' Makes perfect sense. At least, it makes perfect sense unless you, like me, had spent the previous few days talking to economists, investors and economic policymakers about what could happen if we start playing games with the debt ceiling. Their answers were across-the-board apocalyptic. If the U.S. government is so incapable of solving its political problems that it can't come to an agreement on the debt ceiling, they said, that's basically the end of the United States as the world's reserve currency. We won't be considered safe enough to serve as the investment of last resort. We would lose the most important advantage our economy has in the global financial system - and we'd probably lose it forever. Skyrocketing interest rates would slow our economy and, in real terms, make it even harder to pay back our debt, which would in turn send interest rates going even higher. It's an economic death spiral we associate with third-world countries, not with the United States." [Washington Post, 4/20/11, emphasis added]

Even Without Default, Delay In Debt Ceiling Hike Could Harm Economic Recovery. As reported by the Fiscal Times: "The government will bump up against the $14.3 trillion annual debt ceiling sometime around mid-May. The Treasury Department has a number of accounting and borrowing strategies that can postpone running out of cash for several additional months. And that has many of the business economists who monitor events in Washington fretting that the fragile economic recovery -estimates for economic growth in the just concluded first quarter are being ratcheted down to as low as 1.5 percent - could be aborted if Republican leaders in Congress and the White House engage in three months of brinkmanship before reaching an accord." [Fiscal Times, 4/19/11, emphasis added]

  • Bipartisan Policy Center Analyst: Failure To Raise Debt Limit Will Cause Interest Rate Hikes That "Would Cause A Double Dip" Recession. As reported by the Fiscal Times:

A sell-off of government bonds along the lines already pursued by PIMCO, whose founder, Bill Gross, said he exited the U.S. Treasury market earlier this year, would depress bond prices and raise rates, which go up when bond prices go down. "Bond traders are a spooky bunch," said Steve Bell, a budget analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center who spent years on Capitol Hill as well as 10 years trading bonds for the now defunct Salomon Brothers.

"If they start playing games with the debt ceiling like passing a number of short-term extensions, you'll see people exiting the market despite their desire for safety."

He estimated failure to increase the debt ceiling could raise long-term rates by 1 ½ to 2 percentage points over the next six months. "Housing is flat on its back now," Bell said. "Could you imagine what would happen if small and medium-sized businesses had to pay 2 to 3 percentage points more, or credit card debt or the rate you pay for your car went up. It seeps into every type of economic activity. It would cause a double dip." [Fiscal Times, 4/19/11, emphasis added]

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Fmr. Sen. Santorum Claimed Republican Plans For Medicare Would Not Make Seniors Pay More For Their Health Care

CHRIS WALLACE (host): Would you change Medicare right away, would you change it for seniors who are now in the program and make them pay more for their health care?

RICK SANTORUM: Well it's not making them pay more.  What it does is changes from an open-ended entitlement— I mean, imagine giving someone a credit card and saying here, ah, spend whatever you want, I always ask this question when I'm on the road. How much are we gonna spend next year on Medicare? And before anyone answers I say, don't answer it 'cause you'd be lying. Because nobody knows. We spend as much as seniors spend. That is an irresponsible way of budgeting, we can't continue to do that.

FACT: The Republican Plan Would Double Cost To Seniors For Health Care By 2022

In 2022, A Typical 65-Year-Old Would Be Paying Approximately Double Compared To Current Levels. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities prepared a graphic comparing health care spending for a typical 65-year-old under the current system to the same spending under the Republican budget:

[CBPP.org, 4/7/11]

FACT: The Republican Plan Would Leave Many Seniors With Over $20,000 In Annual Medical Costs By 2030

CBO: By 2030, Medicare Beneficiaries Would Be Paying 68 Percent Of Their Health Care Costs Under GOP Plan — Or A Much Lower Share If Medicare Remains Intact. According to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the GOP "Path to Prosperity": "When expressed as a percentage of the benchmark, the beneficiary's share in 2030 would be 68 percent under the [Ryan] proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario. To summarize, a typical beneficiary would spend more for health care under the proposal than under CBO's long-term scenarios for several reasons. First, private plans would cost more than traditional Medicare because of the net effect of differences in payment rates for providers, administrative costs, and utilization of health care services, as described above. Second, the government's contribution would grow more slowly than health care costs, leaving more for beneficiaries to pay. Paying more for health care would be particularly challenging for elderly people with less savings and lower income." [CBO.gov, 4/5/11, emphasis added]

CEPR: GOP's Medicare Vouchers Would Leave "Seniors With A Bill Of $20,700." According to Center for Economic Policy Research co-director Dean Baker:

Representative Ryan would replace the current Medicare program with a voucher for people who turn age 65 in 2022 and later. This voucher would be worth $8,000 in for someone turning age 65 in that year. It would rise in step with with the consumer price index and also as people age. (Health care expenses are higher for people age 75 than age 65.)

According to the CBO analysis the benefit would cover 32 percent of the cost of a health insurance package equivalent to the current Medicare benefit. This means that the beneficiary would pay 68 percent of the cost of this package. Using the CBO assumption of 2.5 percent annual inflation, the voucher would have grown to $9,750 by 2030. This means that a Medicare type plan for someone age 65 would be $30,460 under Representative Ryan's plan, leaving seniors with a bill of $20,700. (This does not count various out of pocket medical expenditures not covered by Medicare.)

According to the Social Security trustees, the benefit for a medium wage earner who first starts collecting benefits at age 65 in 2030 would be $32,200. (This adjusts the benefit projected by the Social Security trustees [$19,652 in 2010 dollars] for the 2.5 percent annual inflation rate assumed by CBO.) For close to 70 percent of seniors, Social Security is more than half of their retirement income. Most seniors will get a benefit that is less than the medium earners benefit described here since their average earnings are less than that of a medium earner and they start collecting Social Security benefits before age 65. [CEPR.org, 4/6/11, emphasis added, all parentheses original, internal citations removed for clarity]

CLAIM: Fmr. Sen. Santorum Claimed That Affordable Care Act Vouchers For The Uninsured Are "Identical" To GOP's Plan To Replace Medicare With Voucher System

RICK SANTORUM: The second thing I could say is that this policy of what Paul Ryan has put together, this premium support model, is identical to what the president argues for in Obamacare. Obamacare is a voucher system for those who do not have insurance. It sets the amount of money that those recipients get, and it ties the increase to the consumer price index. All of which is what Ryan does. Now when Obama does it, it's seen as a great wonderful thing for folks. When Ryan does it for Medicare, we're cruel and horrible to seniors. You can't have it both ways.

FACT: The Affordable Care Act Gives Federal Dollars To People Who Currently Have Limited Or No Access To Care 

The Affordable Care Act Expands Medicaid Eligibility. From the Georgetown University Health Policy Insititute: "Most of the health reforms [from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] will go into effect January 1, 2014. [...] Currently, only a handful of states provide Medicaid to childless adults and while all states cover parents, they often do so at income levels well below the poverty line [FPL]. Beginning January 1, 2014, states will need to cover parents and childless adults up to 133 percent of the FPL. Newly-eligible adults will be covered by a 'benchmark benefit' plan. To promote coordination, the gross income standard that will be used for the premium tax credits available in the Exchanges also will apply to most existing Medicaid eligibility groups." [CCF.Georgetown.edu, April 2010, emphasis added, internal citations removed for clarity]

The Affordable Care Act Provides Subsidies To Help Lower-Income Americans Purchase Insurance. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor:

The formula is pretty complicated. Basically, though, people who make three or four times the poverty level would get enough federal money so that they would not have to pay more than about 10 percent of their income for a decent health insurance package.

People who make less would have to pay a smaller slice of their income for coverage. For instance, individuals who make about $14,000, and four-person families with incomes of about $29,000, would not have to pay more than 3 to 4 percent of their incomes for insurance.

And those who make even less - under 133 percent of the federal poverty level - would be able to enroll in a newly expanded Medicaid program.

The federal subsidy would go straight to the insurer. It would look like a discount on the policy to the customer. [Christian Science Monitor3/20/10]

FACT: The Affordable Care Act Adjusts Payments To Reflect Changing Health Care Costs

Value Of Subsidies Is Calibrated To Limit The Percentage Of Recipients' Income That They Must Spend On Health Care Coverage And Are Adjusted To Reflect Changes In Health Care Costs. From the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: "Refundable tax credits will be set so that the premium contribution in 2014 is no more than 3 percent of income for individuals with income at 133 percent of the [federal poverty level] and no more than 9.5 percent of income for individuals with income from 300 percent of the FPL up to 400 percent of the FPL. After 2014, the percentages will be adjusted to reflect annual changes in income and premium costs. There will be no cost sharing for preventive services and those with income up to 250 percent of the FPL will receive a reduction in their cost sharing, expressed as an increase in the plan's actuarial value. In addition, all plans will limit out-of-pocket costs at $5,950 for an individual and $11,900 for a family in 2010, with decreased levels for those with lower incomes." [CCF.Georgetown.edu, April 2010, emphasis added, internal citations removed for clarity]

FACT: GOP Medicare Plan REPLACES Existing Care With Vouchers That WON'T Keep Up With Health Care Costs — Thus Restricting Access To Care For Future Seniors

Currently, Medicare Part A Pays Hospital Bills For Americans 65 And Older Who Paid Social Security Taxes For At Least 10 Years. From CNNMoney.com: "Medicare Part A provides coverage if you're hospitalized. This coverage is 'free' - meaning you pay no premiums - if you paid into the Social Security pool for at least 10 years [and are over age 65 or disabled]." [CNNMoney.com, accessed 4/24/11]

  • Medicare Also Gives Seniors The Option To Purchase Additional Coverage For Things Like Doctor Visits And Prescription Drugs. From MarketWatch: "Medicare Part A, which covers hospital stays and services, is premium-free for most people. But that's where the freebies end. Traditional Medicare involves a matrix of premiums, co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles. For instance, you'll have to meet a deductible - $1,132 for 2011 - before Part A coverage kicks in for hospital stays of up to 60 days. For beneficiaries new to Medicare this year, the average premium for Medicare Part B is $115.40 a month. But if you earn more than $85,000 if you're single, or $170,000 for a married couple filing jointly, you'll pay more. And starting this year, high earners with Part D prescription-drug plans will face a surcharge ranging from $12 to $69.10 per month, depending on income." [MarketWatch, 4/24/11 via Mail Tribune]

Cato Institute Senior Fellow: Republican Plan Replaces Medicare With A Voucher System. In a New York Post op-ed about the "Path to Prosperity," Cato Institute senior fellow Michael Tanner wrote: "Those getting close to retirement will also still go into Medicare, just as they would have before. But beginning in 2022, people who are younger than 55 today will begin to transition to a new system. Instead of going into Medicare at age 65, they will receive a voucher from the US government to help them purchase private health insurance. Initially that voucher is expected to be for roughly $15,000 per recipient. Lower income seniors and those with higher health care costs because of illness will receive a bigger subsidy. Seniors can use these vouchers, combined with whatever they wish to spend of their own money, to choose an insurance plan that has a cost and mix of benefits that best meets their needs. Instead of a one size fits all system, seniors will have many more choices than they have today." [Tanner Op-Ed, 4/10/11, emphasis added, via Cato.org]

CAF: Because Medical Costs Will Increase Faster Than Voucher Values Under GOP Plan, "The Average Retiree Would Be More Than $50,000 In The Hole." According to an op-ed in the Huffington Post by R.J. Eskow, Senior Fellow with The Campaign For America's Future:

Even if the voucher is given full Medicare value in Year One (which we question), things start to get really bad after that. If medical costs continued to increase at 9% each year, which isn't at all impossible, and the voucher's value continued to increase at 5%, here's what would happen 10 years later using my figures:

By 2031, the cost of Medicare-equivalent coverage would be $73,000, and the voucher would be worth $18,000. By my calculation, the average retiree would be more than $50,000 in the hole. [Eskow Op-Ed, 4/6/11 via Huffington Post, emphasis original]

CBO: Under The GOP Budget, "Most Elderly People Would Pay More For Their Health Care Than They Would Pay Under The Current Medicare System." According to the Congressional Budget Office: "Under the proposal, most elderly people would pay more for their health care than they would pay under the current Medicare system. For a typical 65-year-old with average health spending enrolled in a plan with benefits similar to those currently provided by Medicare, CBO estimated the beneficiary's spending on premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures as a share of a benchmark: what total health care spending would be if a private insurer covered the beneficiary. By 2030, the beneficiary's spending would be 68 percent of that benchmark under the proposal, 25 percent under the extended-baseline scenario, and 30 percent under the alternative fiscal scenario." [CBO.gov, 4/5/11]

CBPP: GOP's Budget "Would Effectively Result In More Rationing On The Basis Of Income." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Many future Medicare beneficiaries with modest incomes, such as elderly widows who must live on $15,000 or $20,000 a year, also would likely be hit by the plan's Medicare provisions; the Medicare voucher (or defined contribution) they would receive would fall farther and farther behind health care costs - and purchase less and less coverage - with each passing year. Aggravating this problem, Ryan has said that his plan calls for repeal of a key measure of the health reform law that is designed to moderate Medicare costs - the Independent Payment Advisory Board. In other words, his plan would scrap mechanisms to slow growth in the costs of health care services that Medicare beneficiaries need, even as it cuts back the portion of those costs that Medicare would cover.

Affluent Medicare beneficiaries surely would respond to shrinking Medicare coverage over time by buying more supplemental coverage. Those who could not afford to do so, however, would get less health care. This is another way that the Ryan health care changes would make ours more of a two-tier health care system and would effectively result in more rationing on the basis of income. [CBPP.org, 4/6/11]

CLAIM: Fmr. Sen. Santorum Claimed The Affordable Care Act "Is Already Increasing The Cost Of Health Care"

RICK SANTORUM: Well is the president willing to let this country go into default to support a program that's been found unconstitutional by a couple of courts—

CHRIS WALLACE (host): And has been found constitutional by a couple of courts.

SANTORUM: Again, but has been found unconstitutional by a couple of courts, has also, ah, has— wildly unpopular, 60 percent negative across this country, is already increasing the cost of health care, is already causing job losses because of the complexity and the taxes that are being put into place.

FACT: Premiums Were Rising Sharply Before The Law Passed

FactCheck.org: "Premiums Have Been Rising Well Before The  Law, And Were Expected To Rise Without It." According to the nonpartisan FactCheck.org: "As we've written before, rising medical costs are the primary driver of increasing premiums, and that's according to insurance companies and state insurance commissions. In fact, the CBO has said the law won't have much of an impact on premium costs for most Americans, compared with what premiums would have been without the law. (Premiums have been rising well before the law, and were expected to rise without it.) Those on the individual market - persons who buy their own insurance - will see an average increase of 10 percent to 13 percent, but more than half of those individuals will get subsidies that reduce their out-of-pocket costs substantially. And the increase in premiums will be due to an increase in benefits in those plans." [FactCheck.org, 1/27/11]

FACT: The Affordable Care Act Will Slow The Growth Of Health Care Spending Over Time

Affordable Care Act Insures 34 Million New People With 1 Percent Health Care Spending Increase. According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

First, be clear about what's being estimated. The Congressional Budget Office's estimates look at the deficit. CMS is looking at total national health expenditures. This often confuses people into thinking that there's conflict between the two sets of numbers when there isn't: CBO says that federal spending is going to go up to pay for the coverage expansion, but that savings and revenue will go up by even more, leading to a net reduction in the federal deficit. CMS is looking only at the spending side. And here's what it finds: In 2019, implementation of the Affordable Care Act will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by 34 million people and increase nation health expenditures by 1 percent. One percent... So that's the bottom line of the report: We're covering 34 million people and come 2019, spending is expected to be one percentage point -- and falling - above what it would've been if we'd done nothing. [Washington Post, 4/23/10, emphasis added]

After One-Time Spending Increase In 2014, Costs Grow More Slowly Than They Would Without Reform. According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein:

[W]e're covering about 10 percent of the country and increasing spending growth by 0.2 percent. Seems like a good deal to me. But it's actually a better deal than that. Here's what the cost curve -- or maybe I should say cost line -- looks like:

What you're seeing here isn't the cost curve bending up. It's a one-time increase in the level of spending. That's the big jump in 2014, the year the exchanges and subsidies come online. So when you compare 2014 to 2013, spending growth seems like it's gone up a bunch. But by 2016, we're back to normal. In fact, we're better than normal [according to a September CMS report]: "For 2015-19, national health spending is now projected to increase 6.7 percent per year, on average -- slightly less than the 6.8 percent average annual growth rate projected in February 2010."

In other words, 2014 is a one-time increase in spending level as we get 30 million new people covered. After 2014, costs grow more slowly than they would without the health-care reform bill. [Washington Post9/10/10, emphasis added]

Face the Nation

CLAIM: Rep. Griffin Falsely Claimed That House GOP Budget's Medicare Scheme "Is Not A Voucher System"

REP. TIM GRIFFIN: We do not privatize [Medicare] and there is not a voucher system. I hear that a lot, and it's not true.

FACT: Yes, It IS A Voucher System — According To Supporters, Opponents, And The Neutral CBO Alike

CBO: GOP's "Path To Prosperity" Budget Would Provide "A Typical 65-Year-Old ... $8,000 In 2022" To Buy Health Insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the GOP "Path to Prosperity": "After assessing the total costs that would be incurred for a typical 65-year-old, CBO estimated the government's share and the beneficiary's share of those costs under the proposal and under CBO's long-term scenarios. The proposal would set the premium support payment for a typical 65-year-old at $8,000 in 2022, approximately equal to government spending on the average 65-year-old beneficiary in Medicare under the extended-baseline scenario in that year." [CBO.gov, 4/5/11]

Click here for more on Republicans claiming that vouchers are not actually vouchers.

Cato Institute Senior Fellow: I Support The Republican Medicare Plan, Which Is A Voucher System. In a New York Post op-ed about the "Path to Prosperity," Cato Institute senior fellow Michael Tanner wrote: "Those getting close to retirement will also still go into Medicare, just as they would have before. But beginning in 2022, people who are younger than 55 today will begin to transition to a new system. Instead of going into Medicare at age 65, they will receive a voucher from the US government to help them purchase private health insurance. Initially that voucher is expected to be for roughly $15,000 per recipient. Lower income seniors and those with higher health care costs because of illness will receive a bigger subsidy. Seniors can use these vouchers, combined with whatever they wish to spend of their own money, to choose an insurance plan that has a cost and mix of benefits that best meets their needs. Instead of a one size fits all system, seniors will have many more choices than they have today. [...] Ryan is betting that relying on the 'laboratories of democracy,' in Justice Brandeis' immortal phrase, will generate similar [positive] results." [Tanner Op-Ed, 4/10/11, emphasis added, via Cato.org]

Creator Of "Premium Support" Payment System On GOP Proposal He Opposes: "It's Vouchers, Not Premium Support." In an interview with the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, Medicare expert Henry Aaron said:

Me and Bob Reischauer jointly created the idea of 'premium-support' in the mid-1990s. It was a response to what we saw as legitimate criticisms of using market forces to rein in the growth of federal health spending. The worry was the reliable savings would come from shifting costs onto patients. The savings from competition were just something we hoped would show up.  So the key element was linking the amount that individuals receive to the growth of health-care spending, not to some other index that would grow less rapidly than health-care costs. The other two elements were aggressive regulation of health-care insurance offerings to prevent insurers from overwhelming people's capacities to sift alternative plans and risk adjustment. [...] In some ways, the Path to Prosperity plan improves on previous version, because the role of exchanges and risk adjustment is nearer to what we had in mind. But it is hands down the worst because it links premiums to consumer prices, which is the slowest growing index. [...] If one does the arithmetic, income grows a few percentage points faster than prices. Health-care spending grows faster than income by a couple of percentage points. So [in the GOP's Path to Prosperity] we're looking at linking to an index that grows less rapidly than health-care costs by three to four percentage points a year. Piled up over 10 years, and that's a huge erosion of coverage. It's vouchers, not premium support." [Washington Post, 4/11/11, emphasis added]

Conservative Think Tank President: I Use The Words 'Voucher' And 'Premium Support' Interchangeably. From Kaiser Health News: "Others counter that premium support and vouchers are the same thing. 'I use the words interchangeably,' said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank in Dallas. 'It just means that the government limits the amount of money that it puts up, and people have to add to it if market prices are higher.' It's not surprising that Republicans favor the term premium support, as the word voucher elicits a strong negative reaction from the public. A September poll conducted by Pew Research and National Journal found that 69 percent of people older than 65 opposed vouchers for Medicare. That opposition came from both Democrats and Republicans." [Kaiser Health News, 4/4/11]

Meet the Press

CLAIM: Sen. Coburn Claimed That President Obama Has Called For Addressing The Deficit Through Discretionary Spending Alone

SEN. TOM COBURN: My, my argument with [President Obama] is when he says 88 percent of the budget we're not going to touch, reform or, or, or fix and we're still going to solve our problems is an absolute falsehood.

FACT: President Obama HAS Called For Addressing The Deficit Through Entitlement Reform

In Debt-Reduction Speech, Pres. Obama Called For Reforms That Cut Medicare And Medicaid Spending. From President Obama's speech at George Washington University on April 13:

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget.  Now, here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer.  Their plan essentially lowers the government's health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead.  Our approach lowers the government's health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself. 

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion.  My approach would build on these reforms.  We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments.  We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare's purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market.  We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid. 

We will change the way we pay for health care -- not by the procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results.  And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services that seniors need.  

Now, we believe the reforms we've proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional $1 trillion in the decade after that.  But if we're wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, then this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare.  [President Obama Remarks, 4/13/11, emphasis added]

In Speech, President Obama Specifically Chastised "Those In My Own Party" Who Want To Focus Solely On Discretionary Spending. From President Obama's speech at George Washington University on April 13: "Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn't make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, out of fear that any talk of change to these programs will immediately usher in the sort of steps that the House Republicans have proposed.  And I understand those fears.  But I guarantee that if we don't make any changes at all, we won't be able to keep our commitment to a retiring generation that will live longer and will face higher health care costs than those who came before. Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have an obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments.  If we believe the government can make a difference in people's lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works -- by making government smarter, and leaner and more effective." [President Obama Remarks, 4/13/11, emphasis added]

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