Since the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans and their allies have claimed the Affordable Care Act slashes funding for Medicare, the federal healthcare program for seniors. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made almost identical claims in the 2012 presidential election as well.
It appears the GOP playbook for the 2014 midterms will be similar.
An early indication is in Florida’s special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., where the National Republican Congressional Committee is airing an ad hammering Democrat Alex Sink’s support of Obamacare.
The ad says the law includes a "$700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors."
We’ve tackled this claim repeatedly throughout the years. There’s some truth to it, but quite a bit of context is missing.
Obamacare does not literally cut funding from the Medicare budget, but tries to bring down future health care costs in the program. Much of this is accomplished by reducing Medicare Advantage, a small subset of Medicare plans that are run by private insurers.
President George W. Bush started Medicare Advantage in hopes the increased competition would reduce costs. But those plans are actually costlier than traditional Medicare. So the health care law reduces payments to private insurers.
Hospitals, too, will be paid less if they have too many re-admissions, or if they fail to meet other new benchmarks for patient care.
The goal is get health care providers to increase their efficiency and quality of care instead of cutting benefits for seniors.
The overall trend in Medicare spending is still expected to increase, even after the adjustments in the Affordable Care Act.
How much are the spending reductions? That has changed throughout the years as estimates get updated.
In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper of fiscal legislation, estimated that the reductions in Medicare spending in the Affordable Care Act we about $507 billion between 2012 and 2021. A more recent estimate from 2013 anticipated about $716 billion in Medicare savings from 2013-2022.
It’s also worth noting that the preferred plan of Republicans in 2012, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, assumed the same cuts to Medicare.
When asked to back up their claim, the NRCC pointed us to our own story from Nov. 2, 2012, about Young’s last Congressional race. In it, we fact-checked an ad in which Young claimed he "opposed $716 billion cut to Medicare."
We gave it a Half True.
In its ad against Sink, the NRCC said the Affordable Care Act includes a "$700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors." There is reduction in spending to Medicare outlays, but it’s fueled by finding savings in the program, a move that Republicans actually supported in the Ryan budget. Medicare spending still increases in the coming years.
We rate the statement Half True.