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DNC Chair Falsely Claims Seniors Could Be Denied Coverage Because of Pre-Existing Conditions Under GOP Reform

3:12 PM, May 31, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on Face the Nation this past Sunday that if the House-passed Medicare reform is implemented, future beneficiaries could be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions: 

Like I said, the Republicans have a plan to end Medicare as we know it. What they would do is they would take the people who are younger than 55 years old today and tell them You know what? You’re on your own. Go and find private health insurance in the healthcare insurance market, we’re going to throw you to the wolves and allow insurance companies to deny you coverage and drop you for pre-existing conditions. We’re going to give you X amount of dollars and you figure it out.

Yuval Levin points out Wasserman Schultz's claim simply isn't true

The Ryan plan would not leave future seniors to find insurance on their own in the private market, and it wouldn’t allow insurance companies to deny coverage or drop people for pre-existing conditions. It would continue the very reasonable practice of treating senior citizens differently than younger Americans when it comes to health care—giving them guaranteed coverage subsidized by the government at a level that would make it affordable for them.

The private insurance companies competing in the proposed government-regulated Medicare exchange could not participate in the exchange unless they offer their plans to all beneficiaries, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Obamacare's health care exchanges would do the same for the under-65 set. As Ezra Klein writes: "Alice Rivlin, your original coauthor on the premium-support model [and Clinton's budget director], believes the exchanges in your plan are functionally identical to those in the Affordable Care Act...."

So if Obamacare's exchange is "functionally identical" to Ryan's proposed Medicare exchange, why would people be protected under the former and thrown "to the wolves" under the latter? 

DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan wrote in an email: "Is the Weekly Standard really quoting Paul Ryan to me as an authority in order to fact check a claim about how Paul Ryan’s plan would put insurance companies who regularly deny people care based on pre-existing conditions back in charge? The Chair stand by the fact the Republican plan ends Medicare as we know it." 

After I pointed out I was quoting Ezra Klein, Sevugan replied: "Ezra is quoting an assertion by Rivlin.  Your only authority here is people who wrote the plan."

So I quoted the Congressional Budget Office's letter on the GOP budget: "Plans would have to issue insurance to all people eligible for Medicare who applied and would have to charge the same premiums for all enrollees of the same age."

Does Debbie Wasserman Schultz dispute the accuracy of that claim? "First, we stand by the statement and our response earlier," Sevugan replied. "Second, I’d refer you back to this analysis by Van de Watert of CBPP, as well as the authority below to back up the assertion."

The analysis from a liberal think tank that Sevugan cited does not refute the CBO. The author merely asserts that "insurers would surely attempt to shun enrollees in poor health." It's unclear how any insurance company would even "attempt" to deny coverage to Medicare beneficiaries. Any company that did so would not be able to offer plans on the Medicare exchange.

So it seems that Debbie Wasserman Schultz simply made an objectively false statement about Ryan's proposed Medicare reform. This is the second time in one week the DNC chair had a problem getting the facts straight.

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