President Obama’s unexpected Nobel Peace Prize may end up being the story of the week, but it was the third-party groups that occupied most of our attention here at FactCheck.org. Once again, health care dominated the discussion, though we also saw some new ads on taxes and on climate change.
We’ve seen both sides making false claims about Medicare. This week it was the conservative group Americans for Prosperity leading with the alarming claim that "Medicare will be bankrupt in 8 years." The reality is a bit less scary. A report from the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees does say that one of Medicare’s four parts – hospital insurance – will be insolvent by 2017. But that’s a far cry from saying that the entire program will be bankrupt. What’s more, the board’s annual report has predicted insolvency for the hospital insurance trust fund regularly; as late as 1998, the report predicted the end would come in 2008. The ad also recycles the bogus claim that the House health care bill will impose a British-style health care system (it won’t) and that it cuts $500 billion from Medicare (it’s actually $219 billion). Read all the details in our Oct. 5 article, "Going Out of Business?"
Conservatives weren’t the only ones spreading misinformation about health care. We wrote about two false ads aired by the liberal group Health Care for America Now (HCAN). An Oct. 2 post on The FactCheck Wire took issue with the group’s claim that “62% of personal bankruptcies are caused by medical debt.” The study HCAN cites says that 62 percent of personal bankruptcies have a medical cause, which includes loss of income from illness and not just medical debt. Moreover, plenty of researchers have objected that the 62 percent figure is inflated. A second HCAN ad accuses Nevada Sen. John Ensign of opposing a “public option” because he received “$874,000 from the health insurance industry.” But that figure includes contributions from all types of insurance companies, plus a wide range of medical entities such as laboratories and opticians. The ad also fails to show any sort of connection between the funds and Ensign’s votes against amendments proposing a "public option"; several politicians who voted for the public option actually had larger contribution totals than Ensign.
Cap-and-trade also made an appearance, courtesy of our Oct. 9 Ask FactCheck item. We looked at an ad campaign from the Valero Energy Corporation, which warns that the American Clean Energy and Security Act could raise the price of gasoline by 77 cents per gallon. That figure comes from an oil and gas industry trade group, which arrives at its figure by assuming that none of the cost-saving features of the act will work. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that the real figure is closer to 23 cents, while the Energy Information Administration says its estimates range from an “optimistic” 12 cents to a “more pessimistic” 67 cents.
We also brought you an ad from a congressional race that’s getting some attention. A special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district is turning party traditions upside down: The Republican candidate has been endorsed by the creator of the liberal Daily Kos blog and attacked by the conservative Club for Growth, while the pro-business Democrat, Bill Owens, wasn’t even registered as a member of that party until he began his campaign. But the National Republican Congressional Committee is sticking to party labels, running an ad that accuses Owens, of wanting to “raise your income taxes.” Actually, the tax increase Owens champions would affect about 1.1 percent of NY-23’s residents. So unless you’re a member of one of those 2,728 affected households, the proposal isn’t going to raise “your” taxes at all.
That’s it for this week. But stick around. We doubt that next week will be particularly peaceful, whatever the good people of Oslo might wish.