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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of June 14-20

This week, readers sent us comments about our criticisms of a Democratic robocall and claims that the GOP budget plan would "end" Medicare.

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.

Wrong Number?

I am unsure as to the validity of your analysis that the robocall was incorrect ["DCCC Dials Wrong Number," June 13]. How is the statement that the GOP plan "actually increases the debt by almost $2 trillion" inaccurate? Is 1.9 trillon closer to one trillion or just shy of two trillion? Your analysis on this point lacks accuracy and sincerity.

Laura L. Eggink
Tempe, Ariz.

The length you are going at to defend the GOP from factually accurate criticism is extremely bothering.

Your first claim about the statement that the GOP plan "actually increases the debt by almost $2 trillion" is absurd. Your own factcheck confirms that the statement is impeccable. So why is it "misleading"?

Toni Menninger
Fayetteville, Ark.

FactCheck.org responds: We judged the $1.9 trillion figure to be "misleading" (not "incorrect"), because the DCCC's robocall claims the GOP budget plan "increases the debt," when in fact the debt level would decrease relative to the even larger debt projected under the president's budget.


More on Medicare

We know that the Ryan plan will greatly reduce the benefits of those under 55. So what happens when those now 54 get the Ryan plan and it provides not enough for basic care? Those only a year older are then getting the old benefits, which are much better. In fact, everyone older than those afflicted with the Ryan-plan are getting much better benefits. WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

Does anyone seriously think that we will continue with a two-tier system in which most of the seniors under the old Medicare plan are doing OK and the ones younger are not getting enough for basic care?

It will never happen, meaning that everyone older than 55 and assured that the Ryan plan ''would have no effect on Medicare'' are just screwed to the wall.

Jim Davis
Fort Worth, Texas

You are just plain wrong about the end of Medicare proposed by the Ryan [plan]. It's a voucher plan [and] is not Medicare anymore than a cow is a bull. Call it what it is: a voucher plan in a proposed regulated market for health insurance for those over 65 as opposed to a government provision of health insurance.

Let me make the distinction for you: government health insurance versus subsidized private insurance.

How much can something change before it's no longer the same thing? You would seem to hold that Medicare is infinitely malleable and remains Medicare regardless. You would seem to argue that nothing short of abolishing assistance for senior health care entails "getting rid of Medicare." 

Mark Johnson
Dearing, Ga.

I'm sure it's pointless to add another argument to the "end Medicare [as we know it]" discussion, but I figured the only way to judge the truth is to answer the question, "What is Medicare?"

So, I went to www.medicare.gov and found my way to "Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Publication No. 11306," entitled "What is Medicare?"

It says right off, "Medicare is health insurance for people age 65 or older, under age 65 with certain disabilities, and any age with permanent kidney failure (called 'End-Stage Renal Disease')."

Medicare is health insurance. That is the bottom line. While it may be accurate to say Medicare is an entitlement program, it is disingenuous to suggest that if a replacement for Medicare is an entitlement program aimed at helping people purchase private insurance, it would still be Medicare. It would not.

Joe Pallas
Santa Clara, Calif.

FactCheck.org responds: The document the reader refers to also describes Medicare Advantage plans: "These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare. Costs and benefits vary by plan." These private plans, subsidized by government, currently cover about 1 out of every 4 Medicare beneficiary.

In the discussion of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's remarks, ["DNC Chair Throws Truth to ‘Wolves,’ " May 31], you first quote Ryan, "Health plans that choose to participate in the Medicare exchange must agree to offer insurance to all Medicare beneficiaries, to avoid cherry-picking and ensure that Medicare’s sickest and highest-cost beneficiaries receive coverage." Then you quote somebody from Cato, '"all seniors under the chairman's proposal, as I understand it, will be able to obtain health insurance coverage." And those with preexisting conditions "will get larger vouchers" because payments will be "risk-adjusted so that people with severe illnesses will get larger vouchers."

As for Ryan's remarks, note that insurance companies may refuse to "choose to participate". … Furthermore neither Ryan or the guy from Cato say anything about the cost of the policies. As far as I know there would be no requirement that the companies offer policies anywhere near the value of a person's voucher. Thus it is all too likely that many, many seniors would not be able to afford coverage even with the vouchers. To offer a person with a pre-existing condition a policy so expensive he cannot afford is tantamount to denying him coverage.

But even worse than that is the absurd claim that payments will be "risk-adjusted so that people with severe illnesses will get larger vouchers." One of the reasons that private insurance has such huge overhead is the cost of underwriting, i.e. the determination of whether a person will be offered the policy. While this cost may vanish under RyanCare, it would be replaced with a vastly larger new expense of determining how much each and every person's voucher should be. The cost of this would more than wipe out any savings from Ryan's plan. It is obviously cheaper to give everyone Medicare than to try and determine how much each person's voucher should be.

Len Charlap
Princeton, N.J.