If Democrats proposed to turn Medicare into a system that only provided free veterinary services to seniors, would Republicans be lying to say Dems wanted to “end Medicare,” without including the caveat “as we know it”?
Of course not. But that’s more or less the charge PolitiFact is leveling at Democrats over a new DCCC ad (below) which flatly charges Republicans with proposing to “end Medicare.” The House GOP budget, which passed with all but two GOP votes over unanimous Democratic opposition, would over time replace the single-payer, government-run Medicare program with a different system that subsidizes private insurance plans for beneficiaries. Those subsidies would work like vouchers — they would increase in value year-on-year at a much slower pace than the rate of the rise of health care costs, thus leaving seniors exposed to increasing costs as time goes on.
Republicans call this new health insurance system “Medicare.” But it’s a completely different program from today’s Medicare. PolitiFact doesn’t see it that way.
“But to say the Republicans voted to end Medicare, as the ad does, is a major exaggeration,” PolitiFact writes. “All seniors would continue to be offered coverage under the proposal, and the program’s budget would increase every year.”
But that elides the fact that Medicare currently guarantees specific services, which the private insurers won’t be bound to provide under the GOP plan. Indeed, the law President Lyndon Johnson signed in 1965 created a national health insurance system that entitled the elderly to have a defined array of health care services paid on their behalf by the government.
Nonetheless, PolitiFact calls the caveat “as we know it” — as in “end Medicare as we know it” — an important qualifier. And they conclude that because the DCCC eschewed this qualifier, and because the House vote on a non-binding budget resolution doesn’t have the force of law, Democrats have told a “Pants on Fire” lie by stating “Republicans voted to end Medicare.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.