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August 15th, 2012
05:48 AM ET

Fact Check: Cutting through the Medicare rhetoric

Editor's note: This morning on "Starting Point," anchor Soledad O'Brien fact checks Medicare cuts claims after her interview with Romney surrogate John Sununu. The video is posted above. What follows is a transcript of the script from the package.

Yesterday on “Starting Point”, former New Hampshire Governor and senior Romney Campaign advisor John Sununu said this: “When Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it…It's a reduction in services a reduction in support for Medicare Advantage. That is taking money from the program.”

He added his voice to a growing chorus of Romney supporters, and the candidate himself, making similar claims against President Obama on Medicare.

* RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on “Meet the Press” last Sunday says President Obama "stole $700 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. If any person in this entire debate has blood on their hands in regard to Medicare, it's Barack Obama. He is the one that's destroying Medicare."

* On AC36, Senior Romney adviser Barbara Comstock says “We are not stealing the $719 billion that Barack Obama took away from Medicare, from current seniors, from my parents who are retired.”

* And yesterday, Governor Romney says "He cuts the payments that go to Medicare by $700 billion and he uses that to pay for Obamacare."

But where is this idea that the president’s health care plan guts billions of dollars from Medicare coming from?

A Congressional Budget Office report says “If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, "[s]pending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013-2022 period."

But that same CBO report says keeping “Obamacare” would not mean a $716 billion decrease in Medicare funding. The cost of Medicare would continue to rise, just not as rapidly. The CBO says this money – Democrats call it savings, Republicans call it cuts – would be achieved mostly through cutbacks in payments to providers and by changes to payment rates in private Medicare plans.

The Romney campaign argues all of this will ultimately lead to reduced access to health care.

"The fact is that he reduces services to Medicare beneficiaries currently on the package," Gov. Sununu claims in my interview with him yesterday on “Starting Point.”

Independent fact checker Factcheck.org says that’s not true. The site says:

"The law stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits won't be reduced, and it adds some new benefits, such as improved coverage for pharmaceuticals."

Senior citizen advocacy group AARP, which generally opposes any policies that would negatively affect seniors, tells its members this:

"The health care law strengthens Medicare by protecting and improving your guaranteed benefits and cracking down on waste, fraud and inefficiency. “

And we have the health care law itself, which clearly states this:

“Nothing in the provisions of, or amendments made by, this Act shall result in a reduction of guaranteed benefits under title XVIII of the Social Security Act.”

So while we here at “Starting Point” enjoy healthy, even if at times heated debate, when it comes to the facts we like to hold all of our guests accountable – including Gov. Sununu.

LINKS TO DOCUMENTS CITED IN BLOG POST:

Senior citizen advocacy group AARP on Medicare

Factcheck.org on Medicare

Congressional Budget Office report on Medicare

Affordable Care Act


Filed under: Fact check • Medicare
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Paula Vydra

    good show on the Atlanta murders.

    March 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Horace Grant

    Thank you; so very often things are said on TV that are untrue and, rarely are they rebutted. God Bless You, Soledad!

    August 22, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mutso

    Soledad, Thank you for standing your ground with these cretins!!!!!!!

    August 16, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. aikanae

    Thanks for checking facts. I have never seen the show but I am impressed to see a journalist question the talking points and review FACTS – yes, facts do exist. I may start paying attention to CNN again. This is what the country has needed for a long time. (PS – I am not right or left, red or blue and neither are facts.)

    August 16, 2012 at 1:09 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. john

    Soledad is my hero! it's a tough job keeping these guys honest.

    August 16, 2012 at 1:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Colleen

      This is exactly what I was going to say! Soledad is my HERO, too!! It's just too bad Mr. Sununu's ears and mind are closed )-:

      August 20, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Naz

      Sadly, both topics in this post reltae to the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Please, everybody, keep quiet about Ryan's plan and let him sink his own party with the voters. The more he touts it and gets agreement from his peers, the worse they will look.As for the murdered child, doesn't it make you wonder about why Zimmerman called 911 nearly 50 times in less than 3 months? Was there really that much going on in his community? Or was he a pest who should have been dealt with rather than being allowed to play policeman? The gated community should be pretty calm and have few uninvited guests. What could have prompted 47 calls to 911 in such a place? And in just 75 days? Some years ago, militias were a popular thing among NC Repbulicans. They saw themselves as providing backup for police, but I never saw anything but a bunch of fat old farts who would have had to call home for their wives to bring extra blood pressure meds if the need arose for any activity beyond porch rocking. So: a black kid in a hoodie, drinking tea and eating Skittles gets shot, while bankers steal with a pen and a lie and walk free, having destroyed hundreds of thousands of people's financial lives. How long till it is Obama's fault that the first one happened? The second one is already his fault, it seems, since no one seems to know who was president before Obama.

      November 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. 1zb1

    As some of the comments here demonstrate not only does Sununu, Romney, and their spokespersons not know what they are talking about but neither do the rest of the Republicans. The 700 billion in savings largely involve the Medicare Advantage program which in which private companies are actually subsidized by Medicare to receive more money then is paid out for traditional Medicare.

    In other words Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries are being subsidized by everyone else on Medicare and most of that subsidy goes to corporate profits and not to the Beneficiaries. Under the healthcare law most of the savings go to increase benefits to all and extend the life of Medicare. It so happens the Ryan budget has the same savings only they use it to cut taxes for the wealthy.

    Sununu and the Rest of the Republicans are not just wrong on this issue but liars as well.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • goodcitizens

      They do know what they are talking about, they are just playing dumb! They know their plan is HORRIBLE and destructive, so they spread lies after lies after lies......

      August 16, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mark Newsom

    Soledad, thank you taking the time to put this together. This is the kind of reporting that educates voters. I went to FactCheck.org to see what they are all about it it looks to me like a nonbias organization. In fact, they have a bunch or reports that speak against Obama misleadings as well, so they seem to be checking everyone. That is what voters should be looking for if they are truely interested in getting thru the mud to make a good decision. I'm still a Romney supporter but amd glad to know fact from fiction no matter what side its from. I hope to see this kind of reporting always as oppose to reporters getting into the spin game the politicians like to play.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Renata Kimmerly

    trying again. Soledad – stop talking over everyone you disagree with. Have the curtesy to let them finish. You should not be so biased, opinionated – I thought you were supposed to report the news, not slant the news, and argue, and cut in,...etc. Can't watch – tuning in to Ashleigh Banfield – she reports and very well. Tuning out of The Starting point....

    August 15, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Antonio

      You think SHE wouldn't let Sununu finish? Are we referring to the same clip here?

      August 16, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • King

      You have no idea what you're tlaking about, but usually right-leaning people love to make up their own realities. If you had actually watched that debate, you would have seen Sununu try to bully his way over the entire segment, like he always does. Your statements just make you look rediculous.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Renata Kimmerly

    haha ! I see you took off the earlier comment disagreeing with Soledad and you only posted the one above that was not on before – switching a pro-Soledad . What happened to the other one ! I feel like I am in a Communist regime – no guts to show the comments, huh ? and my earlier one also respectfully disagreeing with Soledad – that is gone too. too funny ! Shameful really – you make it look like it is objective but you don't follow through. Too funny – and sadly I actually half -expected that – that you would not show the ones who do not agree with your biased reporting. The only good thing about this – is that is it taking up someone's time to read this, and I will continue until there is a breakthrough and you have guts to print.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eleanor Rigby

      Renata – go somewhere, sit down and be quiet.

      October 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. The Limber Mind

    Thank you for standing up for facts. There are real and honest debates we need to have, but the misleading and fallacious claims help no one. Keep up the good work Solodad, you have won over a new fan.

    August 15, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Madalyn

    When you make " cutbacks in payments to providers and changes to payment rates in private Medicare plans" you degrade the plan. Do you think providers - who, by the way, are doctors - can afford to receive even less than Medicare has traditionally paid them? Doctors are voting with their feet on that issue. Do you think that private Medicare plans will be able to absorb so-called "changes in rates" without passing along those "rate changes" to us? I love the Democrats double-speak - they are not taking money out of Medicare, they are just paying doctors less. And then they turn around and say that Romney and Ryan want to dismantle Medicare as we know it. I was born at night, just not last night.

    August 15, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • King

      If you had actually paid attention and read the bill, you would see that they are not paying doctors less, but regulating how much doctors are making from these pill makers, or I guess you could call them medical lobbyist, since they are getting paid to promote medicines as well as take money from Medicare. Look around you, doctors will be just fine.

      August 17, 2012 at 6:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Larry Sims

    My congrats to you, Soledad, on your interview with Sununu. This is what ALL people in the media should be doing in their interviews – holding their interviewees accountable to the FACTS and not allowing them to get away with just spouting their talking points as you rightfully pointed out. If this happened more often, they would think long and hard about doing so. But as long as they are pitched soft balls, they'll keep doing as they please. Excellent job!

    August 15, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. 1zb1

    Sununu is the perfect spokesperson for Romney/Ryan/Republicans: Like the rest of them he lies through his teeth as your review amply demonstrates. Thank you for a great job of standing up to him and his loud mouth bullying ways.

    August 15, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse | Reply

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