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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

RNC’s Steele to Seniors: “Stand With Us”

The Republican National Committee says it will be running this new TV ad in Florida and on selected cable networks starting Sept. 1. It features GOP Chairman Michael Steele touting the party’s "Seniors’ Bill of Rights," which we said last week is a mixture of false, true and misleading claims.

Steele – continuing in the same vein – is shown urging President Obama to "change his mind" about making "cuts to Medicare," "ration[ing] health care based on age" and a "government role in end-of-life care."

Republican National Committee Ad:
“Seniors’ Bill of Rights”

Michael Steele: When you disagree with Washington, how come they act like it’s your problem? That’s what the Democrats have done with health care. They say you’re the problem.

How about a different way? A focus on things we can all agree on? I’m Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party. Join us in supporting a new Seniors’ Bill of Rights.

Let’s agree in both parties that Congress should only consider health reform proposals that protect senior citizens. For starters, no cuts to Medicare to pay for another program. Zero. Make it illegal to ration health care based on age. Prevent any government role in end-of-life care. And stop bureaucrats from getting between seniors and their doctors.

A few things we should all agree on. The Seniors’ Bill of Rights. Oh and President Obama, it’s not too late to change your mind. Stand with us and stand with senior citizens. After all, they’ve earned it.

Announcer: Check out the Seniors’ Bill of Rights at gop.com. The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

It’s true that the president and the Democratic health care bills in Congress propose to pay for part of the costs by holding down the future growth of Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, though Democrats now prefer to call them "savings" rather than "cuts."

And indeed, Steele himself said in an Aug. 27 interview on National Public Radio that he also favors "cuts" in Medicare when "efficiencies" result:

NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Aug 27: So you would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?

Steele: Absolutely. You want to maximize the efficiencies of the program. I mean, anyone who’s in the program would want you to do that, and certainly those who manage it want you to [do] that.

It’s also false for Steele to imply that Democratic health care legislation proposes to "ration health care based on age." In fact, the RNC doesn’t even try to claim that it does. In the material the RNC posted to provide factual backup for the ad, it argues instead that researching the most cost-effective medical treatments "could" lead to such rationing. And what is the RNC’s evidence for that? It cites an article by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (brother to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel) arguing that age should be one of several factors to be weighed when doctors are forced to choose who will get scarce medical resources, such as a life-saving organ transplant when there are not enough donated organs to go around. We’ve been over that before.

Furthermore, the only new "government role in end-of-life care" that’s being proposed is to allow Medicare to pay doctors when they give their patients information about setting up advance directives, living wills and other end-of-life planning. The RNC says such consultations "could" lead to government "participating" in such discussions. Just how that might happen, the RNC’s backup doesn’t say.

"Stand with us," Steele urges his viewers. But be careful about accepting his claims.