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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

We’re in the Record

Saturday’s Senate debate on the health care bill included a few mentions of yours truly, FactCheck.org.

Our work was cited on Dec. 2 by Sen. John McCain, who quoted from our Oct. 20, 2008, article. Three days later our article made the Congressional Record yet again. This time, it was prompted by Sen. John Kerry who said this on the Senate floor, quoting from a Wall Street Journal news story from last year:

Kerry, Dec. 5: Only a year ago, when he was running for President of the United States, this is what the Senator proposed: ″John McCain would pay for his health plan with major reductions to Medicare and Medicaid,’ a top aid said, in a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.13 trillion in 10 years to the government programs.’’ Consistency, obviously, has never constrained anybody in politics.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina jumped in to ask, “is the Senator aware that the day after that, factcheck.com said that was false?”

We did not actually call the Wall Street Journal story false, though Kerry should have said $1.3 trillion, instead of $1.13 trillion. We objected to TV ads run by the Obama campaign, which misrepresented McCain’s proposals. The Obama campaign claimed that McCain was proposing to cut Medicare benefits, which was not the case. The McCain camp proposed substantial “savings” or “cuts” (pick your preference) from Medicare and Medicaid but said benefits wouldn’t be reduced, which is the same thing Democrats are now saying about the "savings" they plan to find in Medicare to pay for their own health insurance proposals. Kerry later dug up our article and got it right, when he explained:

Kerry: Factcheck.org went through the Obama campaign ads and their ads and fact checked what was being said. The McCain adviser is a fellow named Holtz-Eakin. In a conference call with reporters after the ad was released, what he said was: "No service is being reduced. Every beneficiary will in the future receive exactly the benefits that they have been promised from the beginning."

That is the same thing as we are doing. No benefit is being cut. … [A]s late as October 17, about 2 weeks before the election—Mr. Holtz-Eakin said in a telephone conference call with reporters, representing the campaign for the Republican Party: “Any shortfall in McCain’s health care plan will be covered without cutting benefits by such measures as Medicare fraud and abuse reduction, employing a new generation of treatment models for expensive chronic diseases, speeding adoption of low-cost generic drugs, and expanding the use of information technology in medicine.” That is exactly some of which is happening right here—some of which is happening right here.

Kerry neglected to mention that some Medicare Advantage beneficiaries (about 10 million seniors) could see their extra benefits reduced by about $43 per month. As we’ve explained before, the Government Accountability Office has said that regular fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries are subsidizing the extras that Medicare Advantage seniors receive, and Democrats want to eliminate that discrepancy.

On the Senate floor, McCain responded that he did propose savings but not in order to pay for the type of health care overhaul Democrats are proposing: ”I never envisioned, nor do I believe the American people ever envisioned, we would be ‘cutting’ benefits or, as the Senator says, making savings in order to transfer that to a brand new entitlement program.” And he asked that our Oct. 2008 article be made part of the Congressional Record.

McCain then claimed that Medicare was going to go bankrupt in seven years, a misleading assertion we discussed in October.