Rove advances “glaring misstatements” and “distortions” in criticizing Obama speech

Purporting to examine President Obama's health care speech, Karl Rove claimed that while discussing “the so-called lies and misstatements about his proposal,” Obama “made a series of very glaring misstatements or distortions.” In fact, it was Rove who was advancing falsehoods and distortions.

Rove: Obama advanced “a series of very glaring misstatements or distortions” during “gratuitously and bitterly partisan” speech

From the September 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

ROVE: This was not an exceptionally good speech. It was gratuitously and bitterly partisan. But I think the biggest problem was the section in which he talked about the so-called lies and misstatements about his proposal. He dealt with five of them, and in each one of them he made a series of very glaring misstatements or distortions.

Rove distorts “what people were concerned about” regarding “panels to kill off senior citizens”

Rove claims idea that bill “was setting up panels to kill off senior citizens” is “not what people were concerned about.” Rove stated:

ROVE: He said -- he talked, first of all, about peoples' concern that this was setting up panels to kill off senior citizens, and he said that's false. Well, that's not what people were concerned about. What they were concerned about was the proposal that basically says we are going to incentivize doctors to sit down with you and go over end-of-life decisions. We have typically left that to a doctor, a lawyer -- the family lawyer, the family, your family faith giver, your family faith figure to help you arrive at that decision. Here we're going to pay doctors to sit down and go over your end of life decisions with you. [The O'Reilly Factor, 9/9/09]

In fact, conservative media figures falsely suggested health reforms would lead to denial of care for elderly. For example, Fox News' Peter Johnson Jr. claimed on Fox & Friends that health care reform is “the government deciding who will live, who will die.” He later went on to ask: “Is that what this plan is about? To save money by killing old people? That's frightening. That's absolutely frightening.” Similarly, on her radio show, regular O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham asserted that Obama's “approach to health care reform” is “making sure people don't live as long.”

Fox News personalities parroted Palin's end-of-life care “death panel” claim based on end-of-life counseling provision. Sarah Palin claimed that under Democratic health care reform, “Obama's 'death panel' ” would “decide” whether her parents or her son Trig, who has Down syndrome, were “worthy of health care.” Palin subsequently clarified that she had been referring to the House bill's end-of-life counseling provision. Several Fox News anchors, hosts, and contributors subsequently adopted Palin's “death panel” term or advanced or expressed support for her assertion. Media Matters for America subsequently documented more than 40 media reports debunking right-wing claims that the House health care reform bill would encourage euthanasia of the elderly.

Contradicting CBO, Rove suggests “most companies” will “dump the coverage” under House bill

Rove claims employer costs for health insurance exceed 8% fine for not providing it, so companies will “dump” coverage. Rove and O'Reilly had the following exchange:

ROVE: And he repeated -- he repeated the thing of no one's going to be -- tonight he had a different iteration. Earlier he said no one's going to be forced to give up your coverage. Nobody's going to force you into the government program. The fact of the matter is the program as it's designed in the House of Representatives bill, HR 3200, says if you're a business you can either continue to provide health care to your employees or you can pay a fine equal to 8 percent of your payroll costs. Well, for most companies, what they're now paying for health insurance is in excess of 8 percent of their payroll costs.

BILL O'REILLY (host): So they pay the fine -- so they pay the fine and you lose your health care.

ROVE: So they pay the fine, dump the coverage, and you're in the government program.

But according to the Congressional Budget Office, net employer coverage will increase under House bill. According to a July 26 CBO analysis of the House draft bill, a total of 162 million people would be covered through employer based policies in 2019, 2 million more than would be covered under current law.

According to CBO, only “about 3 million people” who would otherwise be covered under employer plans “would not have an offer of coverage under” HR 3200. In its July 26 analysis, CBO wrote:

Taking those considerations into account, some firms would probably decide not to offer coverage, CBO and the JCT staff estimate. That option would be most attractive to firms with lower-wage workers -- both because the play-or-pay penalty for not offering coverage would be smaller in dollar terms and because their workers would be eligible for larger subsidies in the insurance exchanges (or through Medicaid). An additional factor is that smaller firms (those with an annual payroll of less than $400,000) would either be exempt from the play-or-pay penalty or would pay a lower tax rate. However, an offsetting consideration is that small employers with low-wage workers would be eligible for a tax credit covering up to 50 percent of the employer's contribution toward health insurance premiums. On balance, CBO and the JCT staff estimate that, in 2016, about 3 million people (including spouses and dependents of workers) who would be covered by an employment-based plan under current law would not have an offer of coverage under the proposal.

Contrary to Rove's suggestion, those not offered employer coverage would not be forced into “the government program.” Under the bill, those not offered coverage by their employers would be able to choose from the public and private insurance options available through the exchanges. CBO's "overall estimate" is that about one-third of people in the exchanges would choose the public option. Under the bill, eligible individuals would receive government subsidies regardless of whether they chose private or public insurance through the exchange.

Rove distorts Obama statement to claim he is “not shooting straight” on deficit

Rove says Obama “not shooting straight” on deficit claim because CBO says House bill “will add to the deficit.” Rove stated:

ROVE: Well, he said it would not add to the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office says it will add to the deficit in the first 10 years because, remember, under his proposal, you have 10 years of tax increases and benefit cuts in Medicare to fund eight years or less of the program. So by the eighth and ninth year, you've run through the surplus you've built up in the first two years where all you're doing is collecting the money and not spending it, so it is in deficit by the tenth year. The CBO says that, and the CBO also said in a letter that it will get worse in the second 10 years. He's not shooting straight with us. This program has 10 years' worth of revenue to cover eight years of costs, so it's running annual deficits by -- I think it's the eighth year.

But Obama did not say the House bill didn't add to the deficit -- he said he “will not sign” a bill that did so. From Obama's speech:

Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public -- and that's how we pay for this plan.

And here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. (Applause.) I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period.