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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of May 17-23

This week, readers sent us comments about a Medicare ad in a House race, the League of Women Voters' ads and Newt Gingrich.

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.

Democrats' Medicare Ad

Our ad in NY-26 is unequivocally correct ["Test Market for Spin," May 19]. The Republicans’ plan would in fact essentially end Medicare, which has been reported by numerous independent third-party sources.

While some have tried to claim that people over 55 won’t be affected by the Ryan plan, the fact is current seniors will see the doughnut hole gap in their prescription drug coverage reopen, costing them and nearly four million other current seniors an additional $2.2 billion for their prescription drugs next year alone.

As the years go by, the Ryan plan will continue to decimate the Medicare promise that we as a country made to our seniors. By 2030, there are expected to be 78 million people on Medicare, and over 35 million of those seniors will be forced to accept the Republican program that will make them pay an average of $6,400 more per year for their health care. By 2040, 77 percent of seniors will be on the program, and by 2050, it will be 93 percent of seniors that are asked to shoulder that burden so that the Republicans can offer tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

The Ryan plan may be called Medicare in name, but don’t be fooled, with changes that so deeply violate the essence of the program, it’s just not credible to pretend this is the Medicare we know today.

Ryan Rudominer
Spokesman, House Majority PAC
Washington, D.C.

I read your analysis of the Democratic candidate’s statements on Medicare that attack the GOP candidate’s stand, and I think your criticism is shortsighted as it is basically a snapshot look. The GOP plan as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan would in truth end Medicare as we know it if looked at with a longer view. Yes, 55 and older people get to keep it as it is but Medicare was designed as a permanent plan to last through the ages. Medicare is a governmental single-payer plan that can be supplemented by private plans. In the future for the younger set, the governmental single-payer plan ends completely as private insurance theoretically takes over all coverage. All the GOP proposes to do is to give some money as vouchers (to partially cover premiums up to a third of the cost) for elderly people to then subject themselves to the marketplace and all of its foibles. The GOP plan also doesn’t realistically address what medical insurance premiums would be for people who are in their elder years. How you can state that the GOP program doesn’t end Medicare (as we know it) is way beyond my understanding.

Frank Ward
Marietta, Ga.


More on the League of Women Voters' Ads

I am writing in response to your article [“Deceitful Attacks from the League of Women Voters," May 11]. While the ads may not paint the full picture with regard to the carbon dioxide changes in climate and asthma, your article does a far greater disservice by ignoring the facts about the very real health risks posed by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

FactCheck is incorrect in calling the following statement an exaggeration: “EPA and health professionals agree carbon dioxide pollution is a major health threat — exacerbating respiratory illnesses, increasing hospital visits and even causing premature death.” The reality is that the health threats are well supported by the scientific literature and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding. It is also a view held by the leading public health organizations and experts qualified on the subject.

FactCheck is also incorrect in saying: “The scientific evidence we’ve seen so far falls short of conclusively establishing any firm connection between CO2 and asthma.” In fact, these connections are also well established in the scientific literature.

The public health and medical communities are clear: Greenhouse gases are the leading cause of climate change, and climate change poses enormous health risks. Rising carbon dioxide concentrations and attendant climate change will increase the risks to asthma sufferers. I urge you to reconsider your article to ensure that the record on the health risks of carbon dioxide and climate change is clear.

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E)
Executive director
American Public Health Association
Washington, D.C.

We write today to ask that you let your readers know that the American Lung Association strongly opposes any legislation that would block the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement the Clean Air Act.

Scientists warn that the buildup of greenhouse gases and the climate changes caused by it will create conditions, including warmer temperatures, which will increase the risk of unhealthful ambient ozone levels. Higher temperatures can enhance the conditions for ozone formation.

Even with the steps that are in place to reduce ozone, evidence warns that changes in climate are likely to increase ozone levels in the future in large parts of the United States. To protect human health, the nation needs strong measures to reduce climate change and ozone.

Ozone is a highly reactive gas that is a form of oxygen. Commonly known as smog, ozone is a pervasive air pollutant that forms in the atmosphere when hydrocarbon vapors react with oxides of nitrogen in the presence of sunlight and heat. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2011 report shows that millions of Americans live in areas where the air is unhealthy because of ozone air pollution.

When a person inhales ozone, it reacts chemically with the body’s internal tissues causing inflammation, like a “sunburn,” of the lung. Ozone acts as a powerful respiratory irritant at the levels found frequently across the nation. Breathing ozone may lead to serious harm to health, including: premature death; shortness of breath and chest pain; wheezing and coughing; inflammation of the lining of the lungs; increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; increased risk of asthma attacks; and increased need for medical treatment and hospitalization for people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Children who regularly breathe high levels of ozone may face reduced lung function in adulthood. Reduced lung function increases the risk of lung disease later in life.

We trust that you will agree that there are serious health effects associated with ozone, which will occur more frequently if climate change remains unchecked.

Peter M. Iwanowicz
Assistant vice president
Director, Healthy Air Campaign
American Lung Association
Washington, D.C.


Gingrich's Budget Claim

You state in your report ["FactChecking Gingrich," May 11] that Gingrich claimed to have balanced the budget for four years yet he had been in Congress for only two. In fact, Gingrich said that "we" balanced the budget for four years. I believe that a neutral reading of this statement would lead to the conclusion that he was referring not to himself only but to the Republican Congress, and that is a true statement.

Roger Tetrick
Ormond Beach, Fla.