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Politifact Has “Pants on Fire” in Their Rating of Democratic Claims About Medicare

Brian Beutler got to this today, but I noticed it last night and wanted to address it as well. Politifact is held up as a noble organization, dedicated to telling the truth about politics and the back-and-forth charges politicians make. But they seriously whiffed on this one.

Discussing a DCCC ad, one I didn’t particularly like, Politifact writes that the claim that Republicans “voted to end Medicare” is false. Here are their arguments:

1) “Seniors would continue to be offered coverage under the proposal”
2) The ad doesn’t include the qualifier that Republicans want to end Medicare “as we know it”
3) Seniors would have to pay $12,500 for medical coverage under the plan, but it doesn’t mention that they would pay $6,000 under Medicare by 2022 without changes
4) People 55 and older wouldn’t see changes under the plan
5) The vote was on a budget resolution that did not actually change Medicare yet

Let’s take these in kind. Seniors would be “offered” coverage under the Republican plan in the sense that they’d have to buy it. And it would cost twice as much by 2022 than traditional Medicare, and more after that, because the vouchers that the government offer would decrease in relative value over time. So I don’t see how #1 or #3 are false at all. The payment expectations come from CBO numbers. Who cares if Democrats left out what seniors currently pay under Medicare? They would have to shell out $12,500 a year under the Republican plan. That’s totally factual based on the estimates.

Why Politifact thinks that a qualifier like “as we know it” has to be included is puzzling. Medicare is a government-run health insurance program. It has various mandatory features, like hospital stays and other specific services. The Republican plan puts seniors on the open market. There are no such mandatory services and there is no such thing as a government-run Medicare program under their plan. Why do you need “as we know it?”

The complaint in #4 assumes that the footage represents next year rather than a point – only 10 years off – when Medicare is gone under the plan. The fact that seniors are currently exempted is immaterial. In addition, the lack of healthier seniors added to the Medicare rolls every year will have a definite impact on the quality and cost of Medicare for those grandfathered in. But put that aside – this is a silly complaint. At some point in the near future under the Republican plan, seniors would have to find lots of money for health insurance.

And #5 is absolutely ridiculous. Is this the new standard, that budget resolutions don’t count? That votes which, if put into action, end Medicare, don’t count until the vote succeeds? You have to be kidding.

My ruling: Politifact’s supposedly rigorous study makes all sorts of weird assumptions and qualifiers. Their pants are on fire.

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David Dayen

David Dayen