EMBARGOED UNTIL: 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 24, 2009 In this week’s GOP address, Senator Mike Johanns offers what he calls “a simple test for reforming health care.”  In response, we offer Johanns and the GOP a simple test of our own: are your statements supported by the facts?  As you can see from the research below, the GOP relies on debunked claims and outright lies in their attempt to convince the American people to prefer a status quo that is bankrupting families and small businesses and denying insurance coverage to those who need it most and accordingly scores an “F” on our simple test:

RHETORIC: “My Republican colleagues and I have a simple test for reforming health care: Will this legislation improve your life? Here’s what I mean: Americans face rising health care costs, and it’s increasingly difficult to get access to health care. True health care reform should decrease what you’re paying, and make it easier for you to receive care. That should be a no-brainer. Yet current proposals in Congress don’t accomplish this goal, and could even have the opposite effect, negatively impacting each and every one of us. To the working mother with a disabled child who uses a Flexible Spending Account and those pre-tax dollars for treatment, medicine, and therapy for your child: this plan will end these accounts as we know them today, and result in increased out of pocket costs.”

REALITY: PROPOSED HEALTH REFORM DOES CUT COSTS

CBO: Baucus Plan Would Reduce The Deficit Over 10 Years And Bend The Cost Curve In The Long Run. According to CBO and JCT’s assessment, enacting the Chairman’s mark, as amended, would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $81 billion over the 2010–2019 period. … in view of the projected net savings during the decade following the 10-year budget window, CBO anticipates that the proposal would probably continue to reduce budget deficits relative to those under current law in subsequent decades” [CBO, 10/7/09]

Fmr Bush Medicare/Medicaid Director Mark McClellan: “It Does Bend The [Cost] Curve In The Long Term.” “Mark McClellan, director of the Brookings Institution’s Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, and the former Medicare and Medicaid director under President Bush, was similarly impressed. … He said the plan substantially tracked the recommendations of a widely-praised bipartisan report that he recently released outlining strategies to slow long-term spending growth. ‘It does bend the [cost] curve in the long term,’ McClellan said. ‘They clearly are working hard to make fiscally responsible decisions about health care reform.'” [Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic, 9/18/09]

Sen. Snowe Convinced That Baucus Bill Reflects, “Our Position And Views That It Should Be Budget Neutral…[Will Bend The Cost Curve] In The First 10 Years.” In an interview with Sen. Olympia Snowe, John Harwood asked: “MR. HARWOOD: Are you satisfied that the cost control, cost containment in the bill is adequate? SEN. SNOWE: I do. And you know, we were adamant in our, you know, our positions and views that it should be budget neutral and, if anything, should bend the cost curve and bend the overall cost of, you know, the escalation, you know, of inflation within health care. And it does begin that trend in the first 10 years.” [CNBC, 9/17/09]

RHETORIC: “To the factory worker, who has forgone pay raises for the promise of better insurance benefits for you and your family: your health insurance will be taxed and your premiums will go up.”

REALITY: JOHANNS’S REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES DISAGREE

Sen. Alexander: “I’m Willing To Stop Giving Tax Deductions To People For Cadillac Health Insurance Plans.” On CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Alexander said, “I’m willing to stop giving tax deductions to people for Cadillac health insurance plans in order to give everybody a chance to buy their own health care insurance and not add a penny to the debt. I think that would be a good way…What it means is if we’ve got a Cadillac insurance plan and your employer gives you that, then some of it’s going to be taxed. That money will be used to make sure we do — we can’t keep adding to the debt in the way we are.”  [CNN Transcript, State of the Union, 7/12/09]

Sen. Burr Said He Had Pushed a Plan to Tax High-End Health Benefits and Use Them to Provide Tax Credits. “North Carolina’s senior senator has said he is opposed to providing a public option for health insurance and has pushed for a plan that would tax high-end health benefits that are now tax-deductible and use them to provide tax credits.” [Asheville Citizen-Times, 9/1/09]

Sen. Corker: “I Think We Should Limit The Exclusion, The Employer Exclusion, So That Cadillac Health Care Plans Are Taxed.” “Well, you know, I`ve been here two-and-a-half years and actually did write a bill that is very much centered on the kind of things I espouse today, and that is, look, I think we should limit the exclusion, the employer exclusion, so that Cadillac health care plans are taxed. I think you read the other day where — I`m not picking on them, but it`s the case Goldman Sachs, their executives get a $40,000, $41,000-a-year plan. Tax those above $17,000 and use those monies — use the money generated to actually allow people that cannot afford health care today to be able to buy it.”  [MSNBC Transcript, Hardball, 8/3/09]

RHETORIC: “To our seniors, who wish to receive care in the comfort of their homes: funding for hospice care and home health care services would be cut. My state, Nebraska, stands to lose $126 million for home health services, and many of the 38 Nebraska hospices would be in danger of literally shutting their doors.  Nearly $500 billion will be cut from Medicare nationwide.”

REALITY: HOME HEALTH OPERATORS GET PAID MORE AND MORE WHILE COSTS REMAIN LOW – CLASSIC WASTEFUL SPENDING

Congressional Medicare Commission Recommended Cutting Wasteful Payments, “To Ensure That Medicare Does Not Continue To Overpay Home Health Providers,” Who “Continue To Be Paid Significantly More Than Cost.” The Congressional Medicare Commission reported in March that, “[h]ome health agencies continue to be paid significantly more than cost, with average margins of 16.6 percent in 2007…the type of espidodes provided continued to shift to higher-paying services. At the same time, home health agency costs have remained low. Because of the consistently high margins and other positive indicators, the Commission has concluded that home health payments should be significantly reduced in 2010 and 2011 to ensure that Medicare does not continue to overpay home health providers.” [MEDPAC report to Congress, 3/17/09]

AARP: Baucus Proposal Ensures Medicare Patients Receive “The Highest Quality Of Care,” Medicare Advantage Subsidy Cut Would Save “Taxpayers Billions In Waste.” AARP released its comments on the Senate Finance Committee Health Reform Legislation, noting that “AARP is pleased that the bill focuses on keeping people healthy by eliminating out-of-pocket spending for important screenings and preventive services in Medicare, and by covering annual wellness visits for Medicare beneficiaries and their doctors to focus on prevention. Under the legislation, doctors would be rewarded for providing quality care instead of for the number of tests ordered—a critical step in ensuring patients receive the highest quality care. The bill also includes incentives to improve quality of care by providing bonuses to Medicare Advantage plans while reducing subsidies to MA plans, saving taxpayers billions in waste.” [AARP Press Release, 9/16/09]

REALITY: MEDICARE SAVINGS WOULD NOT CUT BENEFITS

AP: Under The Finance Bill, Medicare Coverage For Doctors, Hospitals And Other Basic Services Would Remain Fully Intact, With No Reductions In Benefits. “In its assaults on a Democratic health care overhaul bill, the insurance industry uses facts selectively and mixes accurate assertions with misleading spin and an embrace of worst-case scenarios. … The budget office’s director, Douglas Elmendorf, has said that as a result of the proposed cuts, the extra benefits Medicare Advantage recipients receive would be halved over the next decade. But the ad leaves unspoken the fact that under the Finance bill, Medicare coverage for doctors, hospitals and other basic services would remain fully intact, with no reduction in benefits.” [AP, 10/14/09]

AARP: Statement That Reform Would Cut Medicare Benefits 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]

RHETORIC: “The bottom line is this: we’re nearing 10 percent unemployment. We have a record budget deficit, and many families are working hard just to put food on the table and to pay the bills. Yet, there’s no doubt about it: these proposals will negatively impact pocketbooks and paychecks across America.”

REALITY: ACTUALLY, POCKETBOOKS WILL BE NEGATIVELY IMPACTED WITHOUT REFORM

Employer-Sponsored Insurance Premiums Have Risen 3 Times Faster Than Wages From 1999-2008. “Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have more than doubled in the last 9 years, a rate 3 times faster than cumulative wage increases.” [HealthReform.GOV]

“From 2000 To 2008, The Percentage Of Employees With An Annual Deductible Greater Than $1000 Increased  From 1% To 18%.” “From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of employees with an annual deductible greater than $1000 increased from 1% to 18%.” [HealthReform.GOV]

Chamber Of Commerce: “The Reality With The Business Community Is That We Want Reform, While Some Republicans Want To Stop This Train And Start Over.” The Wall Street Journal reported on the Chamber Of Commerce’s relatively positive reaction to Chairman Baucus’ health reform proposal: “‘The reality with the business community is that we want reform, while some Republicans want to stop this train and start over,’ said Bruce Josten, the chamber’s chief lobbyist. ‘That is just not going to happen.’” [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/09]

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]

RHETORIC: “Republicans are in favor of lowering costs, reforming insurance so Americans can get care when they need it, and providing assistance for those who can’t afford insurance.

REALITY: REPUBLICANS AREN’T IN FAVOR OF MUCH OF ANYTHING WHEN IT COMES TO REFORM

Sen. McConnell Said That Scrapping Every Republican Demand Short Of Scrapping The Entire Project Would Still Not Get Republican Support. “The Senate Republican leader made clear on Wednesday that his party, despite all its griping over the public health insurance option, abortion-funding or health care for illegal immigrants, is simply and flatly opposed to the “core” of the Democratic health care reform proposal. Satisfying every Republican demand short of scrapping the entire project, said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would still not capture GOP support. ‘Senator Kyl and some of the others have talked about some of the things that are happening in committee,’ McConnell told reporters, referring to Senate Finance Committee Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona.” [Huffington Post, 9/30/09]

Sen. Snowe: “Actually A Lot Of The Principles In This Legislation Would Be Principles That Republicans Could Support…It’s Not Having Government Running Health Care. It’s Budget Neutral…It’s Leveraging Competition In The Marketplace.” Sen. Olympia Snowe said on Morning Joe, “actually a lot of the principles in this legislation would be principles that Republicans could support. I mean, it builds upon the base system. It’s not having government running health care. It’s budget neutral. It’s taking the costs within the health care system. We don’t go outside of it. It’s leveraging competition in the marketplace, using the marketplace in the private sector to bring down costs in health care through more competition. So all of the ideas and principles that republicans have valued over the years.” [MSNBC Morning Joe, 10/14/09]

Mayor Bloomberg Statement On Congressional Reform Bills: “This Is An Approach That Republicans, Democrats And Independents Can And Should Support.” In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “[t]he health reform proposal that Congress will shortly consider is shaping up to merit broad, bipartisan support, incorporating Republican ideas and earning deserved support from Republican leaders such as former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. The approach has great potential to reduce costs for families, businesses and government at every level over the long term, while extending coverage to many millions of the uninsured and investing in proven, cost-effective public health strategies. This is an approach that Republicans, Democrats and Independents can and should support.” [Politico, 10/5/09]

Chamber Of Commerce On Baucus Proposal: A Bill “That Will Actually…Get Health-Care Costs Under Control.” The Wall Street Journal reported that, “[t]he U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents about three million businesses of all sizes, has run television ads opposing the Democratic-led health-care push. And the chamber, like many other big business groups in Washington, has many concerns about the Baucus bill, particularly the taxes it proposes to help pay for its $774 billion Congressional Budget Office price tag over 10 years. But the chamber applauded much of the Baucus bill as the first proposal ‘that will actually…get health-care costs under control.’” [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/09]