In response to RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s op-ed in Politico today, DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse issued the following statement:

“We’re not surprised that Michael Steele and the Republican Party feel the need to mock health insurance reform since they clearly have no plan of their own, but for the millions of American families and small businesses struggling under sky-rocketing health insurance costs, this is no laughing matter.  The only thing remotely humorous about Michael Steele’s op-ed is that he accuses the President of not being ‘serious’ about health insurance reform while his own party has offered nothing but scare-tactics and lies throughout this debate.

“President Obama and Congressional Democrats have worked tirelessly to reform health insurance while Republicans have said they want to use the issue to ‘break’ the President politically and ‘kill’ reform.  Why anyone would listen to what Michael Steele and the RNC have to say when they have unabashedly turned health insurance reform into a political football is beyond us.”

The Real Facts On Health Insurance Reform

RHETORIC: “The president will tell us Wednesday night that if you like your current health care plan you can keep it, that no one will interfere with the doctor patient relationship, there will be no threat of rationing care for seniors, there will be no cuts to Medicare, the Cubs will win the World Series, and gravity is no longer a factor.”

REALITY: NO ONE WOULD BE FORCED TO DROP THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE

Politifact Called The Claim “False” That Under The Plans Being Debated In Congress, Millions Would Lose Health Care. According to PolitiFact’s truth-o-meter, Rep. Mike Pence, in an email, wrote that Democrats propose “a government-controlled health care plan that will deprive roughly 120 million Americans of their current health care coverage.” PolitiFact wrote in response how misleading Rep. Pence was, saying, “we rated Pence’s statement that the government would ‘deprive’ 120 million of their ‘current health care coverage’ False.” [PolitiFact, 5/19/09]

FactCheck.org: Under Obama’s Health Care Plan, “Nobody Would Be Forced To Drop His Or Her Current Insurance.” “Obama has long said he would allow individuals or small businesses to buy insurance through a public plan – like the one now available to members of Congress. But nobody would be forced to drop his or her current insurance, and private plans would exist as they do now. This was the health care plan he promoted as a presidential candidate.” [FactCheck.org, 5/1/09]

RHETORIC: “The truth is that the Democrats’ government-run health care experiment could force over 80 million Americans from their current health coverage. Hospitals and doctors could drop many of their patients.”

REALITY: THE CBO, WHICH MICHAEL STEELE LOVES TO CITE, DEBUNKED THIS CLAIM

July Michael Steele Speech Cited CBO Seven Times: “According To CBO, Not Michael Steele.” In his speech, Michael Steele consistently rebutted Democrats’ plans by citing figures or statements from the Congressional Budget Office. In fact, to emphasize the weight he placed in CBO numbers, he even said at one point, “That means—according to CBO, not Michael Steele—the Obama-Pelosi plan does not do either of the two things the president swore that they would do: contain costs and not add to the deficit.” [Michael Steele Speech, 7/20/09]

CBO: Only 6 Million Workers Would Leave Employer-Based Private Health Care To Enter A Public Plan – Substantially Lower That The Lewin Group’s Estimate. “If we assumed that workers at larger firms would be allowed to purchase coverage through the exchanges, our estimate of the number of enrollees involved would undoubtedly be greater than 6 million, but we have not estimated the magnitude. Analysts at the Lewin Group recently estimated that if all employers were given access to the insurance exchanges, more than 100 million people would end up enrolling in the public plan. For several reasons, we anticipate that our estimate of the number of enrollees in the public plan would be substantially smaller than the Lewin Group’s, even if we assumed that all employers would have that option.” [CBO, 7/26/09]

CBO Said That Only About 10-11 Million Would Sign Up For The Public Option If Available. “The CBO report estimated only about 10 million to 11 million people would sign up for the public option by 2019, far fewer than the 83 million cited in another analysis by the Lewin Group. The Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. The CBO report also estimated that about 12 million people who otherwise would not be enrolled in employer-based plans would fall under the Democratic proposal because the mandate for individuals to be insured would increase workers’ demands for employer-based insurance. Republicans often cite Lewin Group analysis to make their point that millions of people would lose their current health coverage if the proposed overhaul became law. But the CBO disputed the Lewin Group conclusions. ‘For several reasons, we anticipate that our estimate of the number of enrollees in the public plan would be substantially smaller than the Lewin Group’s, even if we assumed that all employers would have that option,’ CBO said.” [Reuters, 7/27/09,]

RHETORIC: “Speaker Pelosi’s bill could also give government bureaucrats the power to limit or deny treatments, especially for seniors. Democrats plan over $500 billion in cuts to Medicare that could threaten access to treatments, especially for low-income seniors.”

REALITY: HEALTH CARE REFORM ELIMINATES WASTE AND ROOTS OUT FRAUD AND ABUSE IN MEDICARE WHILE DOING NOTING TO TAKE AWAY CHOICES FOR SENIORS – IT WILL EVEN EXPAND BENEFITS FOR SENIORS BY CLOSING THE “DONUT HOLE” IN THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG BENEFIT

Obama Said That Health Insurance Reform Would Not Cut Medicare Benefits. Obama: “It’s not going to reduce Medicare benefits. What it’s going to do is to change how those benefits are delivered so that they’re more efficient.” [New York Times, 7/22/09]

AARP: RNC Statement Is “Misleading And Alarmist,” And “The Proposed Medicare Savings Do Not Limit Benefits, They Do Not Impose Rationing.” The Wall Street Journal reported that, “[t]he Republican Party issued a new salvo in the health debate Monday with a ‘seniors’ health care bill of rights’ that opposed any moves to trim Medicare spending or limit end-of-life care to seniors. Intended as a political shot at President Barack Obama, the Republican National Committee manifesto marks a remarkable turnaround for a party that had once fought to trim the health program for the elderly and disabled, which last year cost taxpayers over $330 billion…The country’s largest lobbying group for seniors, AARP, said it welcomed the RNC’s commitment to protect Medicare. But the group, which supports efforts to overhaul the health-care system, also dismissed the RNC statement as misleading and alarmist. ‘Change by itself is anxiety producing, but as we have analyzed the various bills [before Congress], the proposed Medicare savings do not limit benefits, they do not impose rationing and they do not put the government between patients and their doctors,’ said John Rother, AARP’s executive vice president.” [Wall Street Journal, 8/25/09]

AARP Clarified That “Medicare Cuts That Have Been Proposed So Far Would Not Affect Benefits.” The Washington Post reported that, “Tom Nelson, AARP’s chief operating officer, said, ‘Indications that we have endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate.’ Like Obama, AARP wants action this year to cover the uninsured and restrain health care costs, but the organization has refrained from endorsing legislation. Nelson said AARP would not endorse a bill that reduces Medicare benefits. A spokesman said the Medicare cuts that have been proposed so far would not affect benefits.” [Washington Post, 8/11/09]

PhRMA Pledged $80 Billion To Close “Donut Hole” Gap In Medicare Prescription Coverage For Health Reform. The Associated Press reported that, “[t]he pharmaceutical industry agreed Saturday to spend $80 billion over the next decade improving drug benefits for seniors on Medicare and defraying the cost of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation, capping secretive negotiations involving key lawmakers and the White House…Sen. Baucus’s announcement said drug companies would pay half of the cost of brand-name drugs for seniors in the so-called doughnut hole — a gap in coverage that is a feature of many of the plans providing prescription coverage under Medicare. Other officials said wealthier Medicare beneficiaries would not receive the same break, but there was no mention of that in the statement.” [Associated Press, 6/21/09]

REALITY: REPUBLICANS, LED BY MICHAEL STEELE, HAVE LONG SOUGHT TO CUT MEDICARE…

2009: Steele Called for Dealing With “Inefficiencies, Absolutely” in Medicare. Michael Steele said, “You’ve got to look at the Medicare system as a whole and see that it’s in financial trouble. So how do you correct that? What steps? And Republicans have been arguing this for 10 years now — and they’ve gotten vilified by the Democrats in the past for even mentioning entitlement reform — so that it is more efficient, so that there are services that are promised to you, you get. And so the cost is driven down, etc. So apart from taking $500 billion out of that, how do you do that?” Asked, “Part of correcting it is to keep the idea of cuts on the table, correct?” Steele answered, “Oh yeah. You’ve got to deal with those inefficiencies, absolutely.” [ABC “Top Line” 8/31/09]

2009: Steele Said He Favored Medicare Cuts. INSKEEP: “You would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?” STEELE: “Absolutely, you want to maximize the efficiencies of the program.” [NPR, 8/27/09]

2006: Steele Said “Everything Has to Be On the Table” In Regards to Cuts to Medicare. Asked what federal programs he would cut, Steele said, “Seventy-eight percent of our spending is in two areas: education and health care.” When Tim Russert pointed out “Seventy percent is Social Security, Medicare and Defense,” Steele answered, Absolutely. Absolutely.” Russert: “Would you touch those?” Steele: “Abso — Tim, everything has…” Russert: “Everything’s on the table.” Steele: “Everything has to be on the table, my friend.” [NBC Meet the Press, 10/30/06]

Washington Independent: Republicans Have Suddenly Embraced “The Same Medicare System They’ve Long Tried To Privatize.” “The sentimental flip-flop, many experts argue, is hardly accidental. Faced with sweeping Democratic proposals that include the creation of a public insurance plan and the broad expansion of Medicaid to subsidize millions of uninsured Americans, Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to kill the legislation. Their tactics have ranged from the wholly absurd — like claims that the Obama administration hopes to promote abortion and euthanasia — to the simply uncharacteristic, like the sudden embrace of the same Medicare system they’ve long tried to privatize. The scare tactics have resonated with seniors, who oppose the reforms more than any other group. But the opposition strategy also puts Republicans in the odd position of blasting away at the public plan at the same time that they’re adamantly defending the virtues of Medicare, the working definition of government-backed health care. In the eyes of many experts, the strategy is sign that GOP leaders will say anything to defeat the legislation. Alluding to the trillions of dollars of deficit spending run up by Republican leaders this decade, Henry Aaron, health policy expert at the Brookings Institution, seemed to find the change of heart amusing. ‘They do not want to do anything now that would raise the deficit and they do not want to cut spending because that would deny someone something (even though there is considerable waste),’ Aaron said in an email. ‘But they claim to be all in favor of health reform. Go figure!’ ‘As far as economic probity is concerned,’ Aaron added, ‘no one has ever accused the Republican leadership of consistency.’ Julian Zelizer, political scientist at Princeton University, pointed to a similar explanation. ‘It’s just politics — politics and hypocrisy,’ he said. ‘It can scare seniors against Obama’s plan.’” [Washington Independent, 8/17/09]

…AND THEIR PROPOSED BUDGET GUTTED MEDICARE

4/5 Of House Republicans Voted For The Republican Budget Substitute. 137 Republicans voted for the Rep. Ryan budget substitute amendment [H Con Res 85, Vote 191, 4/2/09]

AP: The Republican Budget Would “End Medicare As It Is Presently Known.” “For their part, House Republicans are offering an alternative that eventually would end Medicare as it is presently known.” [AP, 4/1/09]

The GOP Budget Would Gut Medicare And Replace The Benefit With A Reduced Health Care Subsidy. According to the AP, “On Medicare, workers under the age of 55 would enroll in private plans and receive premium subsidies equal to the average Medicare benefit when they retire. Benefits would not be changed for people in the program or people 55 or older.” According to Rep. Paul Ryan, “We preserve the existing Medicare program for all those 55 or older; and then, to make the program sustainable and dependable, those 54 and younger will enter a Medicare program reformed to work like the health plan members of Congress and federal employees now enjoy. Starting in 2021, seniors would receive a premium support payment equal to 100% of the Medicare benefit on average. This would be income related, so low-income seniors receive extra support, and high-income seniors receive support relative to their incomes — along the same lines as the president’s Medicare Part D proposal.” [AP, 4/1/09; Rep. Paul Ryan op-ed, WSJ, 4/1/09]

National Journal: Steele’s Pledge To “Protect Medicare” Might Have Been “More Convincing Had It Not Come Five Months After Nearly Four-Fifths Of House Republicans Voted To Literally End The Program As We Know It For All Americans Younger Than 55.” “Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s pledge this week to ‘protect Medicare’ might have been more convincing had it not come five months after nearly four-fifths of House Republicans voted to literally end the program as we know it for all Americans younger than 55. They cast that vote on April 2 in support of a GOP alternative budget plan that would have converted Medicare from an open-ended entitlement that guarantees seniors virtually unlimited access to care into a voucher system that provides future retirees only a fixed sum of money to purchase private health insurance.” [National Journal, 8/28/09]
RHETORIC: “They are also planning large tax increases on small businesses in America that will kill jobs and reduce economic growth.”

REALITY: HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM WILL AID SMALL BUSINESS

Study: Healthcare Reform Has Potential To Save Small Businesses As Much As $855 Billion – No Reform Means Small Businesses Will Pay Nearly $2.4 Trillion In Healthcare Costs, Cost 178,000 Jobs. The Small Business Majority study commissioned a study from noted economist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jonathan Gruber. The study found that, “without reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years in healthcare costs for their workers. With reform, the study shows that small businesses can save as much as $855 billion, a reduction of 36 percent, money that can be reinvested to grow the economy.” The study also found that without reform, 178,000 small business jobs will be lost in 2018 as a result of healthcare costs, and with reform, up to 128,000 of those jobs could be saved. [The Economic Impact of Healthcare Reform on Small Business, 6/11/09]

National Small Business Association: “Health-Care Reform Can Not Wait Yet Another Year.” “Health-care reform topped the list of small-business priorities when members of the National Small Business Association voted recently on issues they want Congress and President Barack Obama to address. The group said it supports ‘broad health-care reform’ that will reduce costs, improve quality, create a fair sharing of health-care costs, and focus on individuals’ responsibilities as health-care consumers. ‘Given the current state of the U.S. economy, the fact that our members voted health-care reform their number one priority ought to send a strong message to Congress,’ NSBA President Todd McCracken said in a written statement. ‘Health-care reform can not wait yet another year.’” [Orlando Sentinel, 3/9/09]

Survey: Even Though Over 80% Of Small Business Owners Say Health Insurance Would Help Attract Best Employees, 45% Say They Do Not Provide It Because It Is Too Expensive. A Wells Fargo / Gallup poll found that, “[e]ight in 10 small-business owners believe that having an adequate health insurance program would help their companies attract the best qualified employees (84%), reduce the likelihood that their employees would leave (83%), and would make employees more loyal to their companies (81%)…Although small-business owners acknowledge that their companies can obtain health insurance for their employees, 45% of those who say they do not provide insurance say it is because they cannot afford to do so.” [Wells Fargo / Gallup Poll, 10/5/07]