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Politico Fact Check Misinterprets Rep. Ryan

John on February 26, 2010 at 7:33 am

Politico put up a fact check piece on yesterday’s health care summit. It’s pretty fair overall, taking aim at both sides for fibs and exaggerations. I was a little dumbstruck by this last one though:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) claimed that under the Democrats’ plan, millions of seniors will lose their Medicare Advantage plans.

Not quite.

According to health policy experts, it’s fair to say that if the Democrats have their way, the benefits provided by Medicare Advantage will be reduced — which means that a number of seniors might choose not to enroll in the program in the future. That doesn’t mean people are going to “lose” their plans, exactly — just that fewer are likely to enroll. Seniors would still be guaranteed their traditional Medicare benefits.

Here’s the video of Rep. Ryan, which I posted yesterday. His exact words were as follows (scroll in around 2:45):

What this does, according to the chief actuary of Medicare, he’s saying as much as 20% of Medicare’s providers will either go out of business or will have to stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries. Millions of seniors who are on…who have chosen Medicare advantage will lose the coverage that they now enjoy.

I think he’s making two distinct points here. First that this will push providers of Medicare services out of business and second that it will cut the coverage of recipients who are currently on Medicare Advantage. But notice that Rep. Ryan never said millions of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will lose their plans. He said they would “lose the coverage they now enjoy.” In other words, they’ll still be covered by something, just not at the same level they’ve currently chosen.

Also notice that Politico agrees completely with this, saying, “if the Democrats have their way, the benefits provided by Medicare Advantage will be reduced.” That was the point Rep. Ryan was making. Millions will lose coverage they now have. Not all of their coverage, but some of it. They will not, in other words, be able to keep the plan they currently have chosen.

I didn’t watch the whole dog and pony show yesterday. Maybe there was another moment where Rep. Ryan said something differently. But I suspect Politico is responding to this same clip and that they’ve misinterpreted what Ryan was saying. If so, they should consider redrafting this last bit and changing the opening paragraph which currently reads:

Obama exaggerated. Boehner lied. Reid was incorrect. Ryan is wrong.

Rep. Ryan was not wrong. As I’ve shown, Politico’s fact check only bolsters the actual point he was making.

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