The Republicans want to waste taxpayer money on Medicare that Obamacare would save

by pdxblake

The latest claim from Team Romney is that the Affordable Care Act cuts Medicare spending by over $700 billion, something which Romney is trying to spin to get people to believe that Obama is taking money from Medicare to pay for the ACA.  It happens to be totally false, even though PolitiFact gives it just a “Mostly False” rating.  The source for the claim is analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of the impacts of the Republican plans to repeal the ACA (pdf), which says:

The ACA also includes a number of other provisions related to health care that are estimated to reduce net federal outlays (primarily  for Medicare). By repealing those provisions, H.R. 6079 would increase other direct spending in the next decade by an estimated $711 billion.

So yes, it would be correct to say that repealing the ACA would increase Medicare spending over 10 years by $711 billion, but that is not the same thing as saying that the ACA cuts spending for Medicare by the same amount.  The distinction is in what the ACA does that lowers spending on Medicare.  It doesn’t cut benefits to people on Medicare; instead, it cuts down on the cost of providing the same service to Medicare beneficiaries.

So the correct way to frame the Republican alternative, which is to return to the system we had before the ACA, is not that it provides more funding to Medicare, but that it spends more on providing the same service, just at greater cost to the taxpayers.  For a campaign that is trying to say it is more fiscally responsible, this doesn’t auger well (nor should it since the Republicans has never really cared about deficits).

Kudos to Soledad O’Brien for factchecking John Sununu and the Romney campaign’s wild and incorrect claims, but it is a sign of how bad things have gotten that I have to commend a journalist who actually does their job and educates their viewers about the veracity of what is said on their show.  The Atlantic shared a similar bit of frustration on the lack of fact-checking in journalism, in what I think is a great read, and suggests that adding the fact-check boilerplate in stories that give context of whether something is true or not, which they hope “could help those who are committed to being objective assert themselves more forcefully as impartial observers of reality in a campaign cycle full of distortions. Done day in and day out, and in every story that contains a newly-repeated, previously-debunked assertion, that could begin to have an impact.”

UPDATE: Here’s a post with some commentary from Jared Bernstein and a few links on the $700 billion question.