The Blog

PolitiFact's Credulous Romney-Ryan Health Care Attacks

3:32 PM, Aug 27, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Under the original Ryan plan, retirees would have chosen a private health plan and the government would have contributed money toward the cost. The amount of money would have depended on the beneficiary’s age and health status. Over time the average amount of money would have risen with inflation.

Critics pointed out that health-care costs have risen faster than inflation for a long time. If competition failed to change this trend, senior citizens would indeed have been left paying more.

The new version of the plan cleverly fixes the problem. Insurers would submit competitive bids to see who could cover Medicare’s traditional benefits for the lowest premium. The average amount of financial assistance would be equal to the second-lowest bid. So seniors will always have an option that leaves them with no higher costs than now. If they pick something even cheaper, they will come out ahead.

Also note that the Romney campaign has also explained all this in detail. So how does PolitiFact get away with saying this ad is half-true?:

The Obama ad would have been more accurate if it had specified that it was referring to a previous Ryan plan for Medicare rather than the current one. We simply don’t have enough details to know how much extra money seniors might have to pay under the current Ryan plan. Still, the Obama campaign gave itself some wiggle room by saying that the plan "could" raise out-of-pocket costs by more than $6,000. On balance, we rate the statement Half True.

Here's something for PolitiFact to ponder—I know this is difficult to believe, but maybe the Obama campaign didn't specify that they were referring to an outdated version of the Ryan plan because they were trying to be deliberately misleading. That's an obvious conclusion to consider here, as it's not like political ads have a reputation for strict veracity. And since when is it ok to give the Obama campaign "wiggle room" because they said that it "could" cost seniors more than $6,000? If the Romney-Ryan campaign releases an ad saying that the president "could" be putting dead hobos in the crawlspace under the Oval Office, will they be granted "wiggle room" for making their accusation conditional in the absence of evidence?

This is a remarkable conclusion because, once again, PolitiFact ignored the evidence they themselves provided that says otherwise. Here's what they say earlier in the piece about what the cost of the new Romney-Ryan plan would be:

The Obama campaign said it would be happy to update its numbers if CBO or the Romney-Ryan campaign provided new data, but neither has. Peter Orszag, Obama’s former Office of Management and Budget director, recently wrote that "if Ryan believes that changes to his plan since (the original plan was released) would result in any different conclusions, he should request that CBO publish an updated analysis."

But there is one clue that the number wouldn’t be close to $6,400. A study published Aug. 1, 2012, in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that if Ryan’s plan had been in place in 2009, the cost of the second-cheapest Medicare Advantage plan (and thus the size of the premium support payment) would have been 9 percent less than traditional Medicare.

That would have required an out-of-pocket payment for seniors who wanted to use traditional Medicare of $64 a month — which adds up to less than $800 a year.

PolitiFact presents no evidence that the current Romney-Ryan Medicare plan will costs seniors anywhere close to $6,000. So how the heck, in the total absense of evidence, does that statement rate even "half true"?

The fact that Obama is getting a "half true" rating and Ryan is getting a "mostly false" rating tells you everything you need to know about PolitiFact's well-documented bias against Republicans

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers