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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

The DNC and Senior Scare

The Democratic National Committee has released a new TV ad about health care legislation, this time on the Senate Finance Committee proposal.

In the ad, the DNC takes on Republicans for "trying to scare seniors about health reform," saying that news outlets had called their claims "dishonest" and "scare-mongering." The ad’s citations for both quotes check out – the first is from an editorial in the Palm Beach Post, the second from an editorial in The New York Times.

The ad also says that "AARP called Republican charges ‘scare tactics,’" which is a little less on the nose. AARP did use the phrase "scare tactics" in its "Myths vs. Facts" article on health care legislation. But it points the finger at "special interest groups," not Republicans. It’s true that the myths AARP addresses on its page have been espoused by Republicans in Congress. But it’s wrong to suggest that AARP issued a partisan condemnation.

As for the claims that health care legislation will enhance seniors’ drug coverage, reduce their premiums and keep Medicare solvent, those all come from the same Times editorial. The editorial goes on to mention one exception: "[S]ome of the 10 million people enrolled in private plans that participate in Medicare — the Medicare Advantage program — might suffer a dilution or elimination of the extra benefits they get that other beneficiaries do not." The Senate Finance Committee bill proposes to cut subsidies to Medicare Advantage companies, and it’s possible that seniors would lose such plans if companies dropped out because of the extra cost. However, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that “virtually all” Medicare beneficiaries have access to at least two Medicare Advantage plans, and most have access to three or more. In our article "RNC’s Bill of Rights," we cited one estimate that 3 million Medicare Advantage enrollees would likely switch back to traditional fee-for-service Medicare if the House bill were enacted. Seniors using fee-for-service plans may – but may not – have higher premiums than those currently using Medicare Advantage.

Although this ad attacks Republicans for "trying to scare seniors" with false claims, Democrats themselves have done the same. Just this month, we called out the DNC for a TV ad that accused Republicans of "voting to abolish Medicare," a claim we found to be false.