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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Sept. 1-Sept. 8

This week, readers sent us comments on Medicare, skepticism and the expansion of FactCheck into other forms of media.

In the FactCheck Mailbag we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Abolishing Medicare?

In your most recent e-mail ["Senior Scare, Yet Again," Sept. 8], you said that what the Republicans were doing was different than "Abolishing Medicare." But, as I see it, what they describe would effectively "Abolish Medicare" as we know it today, in about 10 years. Am I looking at it wrong? Or are you?

Jim Smith
Flippin, Ark.


It would abolish Medicare for all in the targeted demographic. That is, it would remove a program that people in that demographic would – without this abolition – most certainly participate in. And, when all those already qualified for Medicare die, of course, there would be no more Medicare. Just private companies, making money.

I don’t think this is your best work.

Charles Quinn
Columbus, Oh

FactCheck.org responds: We might have criticized the DNC ad less severely if it had claimed that Republicans voted to abolish Medicare "as we know it," but that’s not what the ad said. Under the GOP proposal, Medicare spending would have continued to grow (nearly doubling over 10 years) and all seniors would still have had health insurance heavily subsidized by the Medicare program. The ad claimed Republicans sought to "end" or "kill" Medicare, period. That’s not right.


Health Care Questions Persist

Your review of H.R.3200 ["Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200," Aug. 28] assumes a benign and literal reading of the sections that are controversial. I, on the other hand, after reading the bill find that the assumptions that are being made are true. Any time a piece of legislation uses the words "may," you can be sure that when the bureaucrats write the rules "may" will become mandatory.

Fred Nover
Annandale, Va.


You posted a response to a chain e-mail spreading misleading or untruths about H.R. 3200. In the question about the AMA selling out doctors, [it said] the government will set wages. But, the government already sets wages for doctors through the Medicare reimbursement rates (as you must know, private insurance companies follow suit with Medicare reimbursement rates).

It is my understanding that the public option offers 5% above Medicare rates, for the first three years, then after that it is unspecified but negotiable. However, absent antitrust reform, doctors are unlikely to have any true negotiating powers. Moreover, it should be noted that because there is a pre-set schedule for annual reimbursement reductions already set-up in Medicare (while the costs to provide care annually increase), doctors spend millions of dollars each year lobbying against these cuts. While they have been successful to this point, what a waste of valuable funds that could be focused elsewhere.

Jodi Carroll
Winfield, Ill.

FactCheck.org responds: The government sets Medicare payment rates for doctors, but not wages, since Medicare is not doctors’ only source of income. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare’s physician payment rates are on average 20 percent lower than private insurance. The bill would set similar payment rates for patients using the federal option, and doctors would still be free to charge what they wished for other patients. The House bill as amended by the Energy and Commerce committee says payment rates for the federal option would be negotiated, not tied to Medicare rates.


Whom Can You Trust?

I just read an article, "The Assault on Truth" in my recent (Sept. 2009) AARP news bulletin. I want to very much believe there are entities out there like FactCheck.org that do indeed report the truth, either right or wrong, without prejudice. However, why should I believe FactCheck versus believing someone like Betsy McCaughey, or, my own senator from Ohio, John Boehner? Yeah, I get it; Ms. McCaughey and Mr. Boehner may have other agendas/interests they need to appease. How can I (or anyone for that matter?) be sure FactCheck also doesn’t have its own agenda or special interests you have to kowtow to? I’m tired of listening to all the BS about health care reform but not sure who to trust.

In other words, are you guys simply too good to be true?

Steve Holderness
Dublin, Ohio

FactCheck.org responds: We encourage healthy skepticism, even about our work. That’s why we source all our articles and provide hyperlinks, so you don’t have to take our word for what we tell you. You can judge our supporting evidence against the evidence provided by the people we’re checking, and draw your own conclusions.

As for special interests, we are a nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. We try our best to be politically and ideologically neutral. You’ll have to judge for yourself how close we come to that goal.


Wanted: A FactCheck Media Empire

In that grey zone between dream and wakefulness this morning, I had a revelation, and FactCheck.org seemed to be the ideal vehicle.

Please consider publishing an annual index of truthfulness scoring for all of the various pundits and politicians we hear on the airwaves daily. It would become apparent very quickly who values truth and who lacks the compulsion to tell the truth or those who are "unfamiliar with the truth" for whatever reason. You could even have a "Loony" end of the spectrum for those who should have been screened a little more vigorously for public office. Kind of a Consumer Reports of public opinion.

You’d probably have to footnote (the bejeezus out of) the scoring, but I think a lot of that work is already accomplished in your regular process. You could weigh the score of a particular comment higher or lower by the significance of the issue or how helpful or harmful it is to the process. (I can’t stand useless comments that obfuscate the issues.) We love keeping score in America. Maybe an incentive to improve one’s truthfulness score would be a very good thing.

Ideally, I would like to be able to look up a particular opinionator on your site and see where they fall in the spectrum of truthfulness. It would be a tremendous addition to your already great service to the country. And I’m very sure it would be fun.

Michael Crawford
Palmetto, Fla.


What are the chances FactCheck will be going viral in the immediate future? If there is one thing the health care reform debate has shed light on, it is that the American public is starving for the truth. Far too often rational discourse is obliterated by those who throw out anything and everything to further their ideology. And far too often it is the loudest who are heard the most, no matter what their argument.

FactCheck.org needs to find a way to spread their word to mainstream America in a timely, consistent fashion. Perhaps it is finding a :30 sponsored slot on all the network news programs; or podcasting a daily ten minute program; or publishing a daily bit on YouTube. There are a number of ways your word could find the ears of America. Your website is very valuable, but this is America. No one wants to do their own digging… they’d much rather listen to talking heads. How about giving us some heads that tell the truth, consistently.

Dan Lien
Moorhead, Minn.