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PolitiFact's Credulous Romney-Ryan Health Care Attacks

3:32 PM, Aug 27, 2012 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Perhaps if we all ignore PolitiFact, they'll go away. But for the time being, the supposedly independent organization continues to crank out skewed and partisan work. There's no better example of this than the the current jihad the "fact checking" organization is waging against the Romney-Ryan health care plan.

A quick spin around the site reveals some pretty disingenous things. For instance, PolitiFact rated Paul Ryan "mostly false" for his critique of Obamacare's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB)—a board created by Obamacare in an attempt to control Medicare costs. I discussed how IPAB is supposed to work in a piece earlier this year:

Here’s how IPAB works: It’s a panel of 15 presidential appointees who are tasked with reducing Medicare spending. The panel is given certain spending targets, beginning in 2014. At first those targets are on a sliding scale, but by 2018 spending growth is limited to the rate of growth of GDP with an additional percentage point tacked on.

Any decisions IPAB makes about Medicare spending automatically become law. To override IPAB requires a three-fifths majority vote in the Senate, a high legislative hurdle. Alternatively, Congress can pass its own Medicare plan that meets the same spending target. There’s no administrative process allowing doctors or citizens to challenge the board’s decisions. Since Medicare comprises about 13 percent of the federal budget, that’s an awesome amount of power to be placing in the hands of unelected bureaucrats.

In order to assuage fears that the board would go on a rationing tear, the commission was supposedly given a narrow mandate. IPAB can’t adjust premiums or Medicare’s cost-sharing mechanisms, such as copayments and deductibles.

It can, however, adjust the rates at which doctors are reimbursed. But Medicare reimbursement rates are already well below market rates, and consequently doctors are treating fewer and fewer Medicare patients as they lose money on them. Doctor access is already a huge problem for Medicaid for this same reason: Over half of all specialists in many major metropolitan areas are refusing to take on new Medicaid patients, according to a 2009 survey by Merritt Hawkins and Associates on physician wait times. As it is, Medicare reimbursement rates are set to drop below Medicaid’s in the coming decade—and that’s without IPAB.

Here's what Paul Ryan said about IPAB that PolitiFact claims is untrue: "[Obama puts] 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare, who are required to cut Medicare ... that will lead to denied care for current seniors." That may be more concise than my lengthier explanation, but what Paul Ryan is saying is bang on. Perhaps you could quibble with his assumption that ratcheting down reimbursement rates will reduce doctor access to Medicare, but as I noted, there's a preponderance of evidence to suggest that will happen.

Ok, now here's PolitiFact's conclusion to their piece saying Ryan's statement is "mostly false":

Ryan said that Obama "puts a board of 15 unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in charge of Medicare who are required to cut Medicare in ways that will lead to denied care for current seniors."

Board members aren’t elected, but it’s a stretch to say they’re entirely unaccountable. They’re appointed by the president and approved by the Senate. The president can fire them for neglect of duty or malfeasance.They’re required to recommend cuts to Medicare in years that other cost-saving measures don’t meet growth targets — but Congress can overrule their recommendations.

Did you catch that bit about "it's a stretch to say that they're entirely unaccountable"? What a mendacious mischaracterization that is. Ryan didn't say that IPAB was "entirely unaccountable" he simply said it was "unaccountable." That's reading into Ryan far more than what he said. And when 15 unelected bureaucrats are able to set 13 percent of the federal budget without congressional approval, that's more than a fair thing to say. There's also the not-insignificant matter that under the separation of powers in the constitution, the executive branch isn't supposed to make law, which is exactly what presidentially appointed IPAB bureaucrats are doing and why the Goldwater Insititute has filed a lawsuit over IPAB on the grounds it's unconstitutional. PolitiFact continues:

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