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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Aug. 3-Aug. 9

This week, readers sent us more comments about the Medicare ad featuring Andy Griffith, plus a comment about the difference between being misleading and telling an outright lie.

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.


More Medicare Madness

I don’t see how you can say that the Andy Griffith ad ["Mayberry Misleads on Medicare," July 31] is misleading. …

Anyone who understands Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage knows that there are guaranteed rights/coverage and coverage that isn’t a guaranteed right. So when Andy says that it won’t change guaranteed rights, I understood exactly what he meant. Not misleading or deceptive as far as I’m concerned. The word "guaranteed" in this context is not a weasel word, it is a concise word.

Could the ad have spelled out that MA plan members could experience some loss of benefits? Yes, but you know that in politics, they never detail the downside — they leave that to the opposition who will do it in spades.

If we could force all politicians to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, the country would certainly be better off. We could then criticize this ad for what it didn’t say. Unfortunately, politicians will never vote for a bill that would force them to do that so we are then stuck with gray areas in ads that we have to understand apart from the content of the ad

I rely on FactCheck.org for all sorts of clarification about political issues and I appreciate that I can come to FactCheck.org for that. But in this case, I think FactCheck.org, itself, was guilty of being somewhat misleading.

Just my $.02

Gayle Opie
Austin, Texas

True, this ad is not fully explanatory, but I think you’re confusing extras that these recipients get, funded by government tax dollars, estimated to be in the billions, and charged to those of us who have regular Medicare plans, for things like "silver slippers," a seniors club that pays for their exercise classes, dental and hearing benefits which those of us enrolled in government Medicare do not receive. President Obama even pointed this out in his many speeches about the HMO insurance companies and promised that it would stop. I think the ad is correct in that none of their basic coverages will change, just their special perks. You might want to check this for accuracy.

Bea Manderscheid
Tucson, Ariz.

In regard to “Mayberry Misleads on Medicare,” it’s not the ad that is misleading. It’s FactCheck’s commentary.  …

Medicare Advantage is not Medicare. It’s senior insurance offered by competing private companies with government incentives which allow the private companies to do so at a profit. It is also interesting that even with those extra benefits and, in some cases, reduced premiums, most seniors choose to stay in the government-run Medicare program. I, for one, resent having my Medicare tax money go to provide profits for private insurance companies, even though I was forced by my state insurer to go on a Medicare Advantage plan. I think that removing those incentives was good, fiscally conservative policy. …

Bottom line. Traditional, government-run Medicare does not reduce benefits or raise premiums under the new law. No senior on traditional Medicare will lose benefits. Seniors who are not on traditional Medicare may see their benefits reduced, but they are not on Medicare. They are privately insured. It’s not the same thing. The ad is accurate. The FactCheck article is misleading.

Edith M. Parko, PhD
Crossville, Tenn.

You respond to the critics ["FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 27-Aug. 2"] saying, "we believe it is misleading to tell the general public that ‘like always, we’ll have our guaranteed benefits.’ The truth is that millions of MA participants will see their benefits reduced."

In the process of fact checking you should stick to facts and the fact is that the ‘extras’ that people get in Medicare Advantage are not and never were "guaranteed." Your defense of your "belief" consists of weasel words.

Jim Bullard
West Stockholm, N.Y.


A Lie By Another Name

You guys make a big distinction between "misleading" and "lies," but when I read the descriptions of what is said, they seem pretty much the same to me. In my view, any misrepresentation should be classified as a lie. Any misrepresentation or twisting of facts is a lie!

Bill Ponder
Huntington Beach, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: Not every falsehood is a lie. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a lie as "a false statement made with intent to deceive; a criminal falsehood."

Since we are not mind-readers, we seldom know whether a person making the false claim intended to deceive. Some may simply be mistaken. Some may be self-deluded, and believe their own falsehoods.

So we limit ourselves to identifying false or misleading political statements and reporting the relevant facts for our readers. We leave it to them to speculate about motives.