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A Congressional Budget Office report says “If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, "[s]pending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013-2022 period."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


Senior citizen advocacy group AARP on Medicare on Medicare

Congressional Budget Office report on Medicare

Affordable Care Act

Filed under: Fact check • Medicare
June 28th, 2012
09:28 AM ET

Fact Check: Are common claims about the health care law true?

The health care law has been in effect for 828 days and it's been the subject of intense criticism since its inception.

Congressional Republicans have been among the law's harshest critics. This morning, they are promising a full repeal of the law if the Supreme Court lets the health care legislation stand.

Accordingly, the Starting Point team took some time to fact check a few claims about health care reform on today's show.

First, is the presiden'ts health care law driving up the cost of health care?

Health insurance premiums jumped nine percent from 2010 to 2011, an increase Republicans blame on the health care law. However, according to, the law only caused about a one to three percent increase in costs. The rest of the nine percent was due to rising health care costs.

Additionally, the increase caused by the law, was the result of increased benefits. For instance, allowing children to stay on their parent's policies until they are 26, or covering children with pre-existing conditions.

Another question, does the health care law make it harder for small businesses to hire new workers?

The fact is, businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt and according to, experts predict the law may cause a small loss of low wage jobs, but will also create an increase in better paying jobs in the health care and insurance industries.

Finally, is it fair to say that the health care law was passed by the strong majority of a Democratically elected Congress, as President Obama has claimed?

No, the legislation was passed along party lines with 60 votes.

Filed under: Fact check • Health care