PolitiFact’s Month-Old Rating Of Baldwin Statement Relies Too Heavily On GOP Talking Points

PolitiFact’s Month-Old Rating Of Baldwin Statement Relies Too Heavily On GOP Talking Points 

››› ››› CAT DUFFY

PolitiFact Wisconsin rated Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s (D-WI) month-old claim that the GOP is “organizing to take people’s health care away” mostly false, claiming that while the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that “repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could result in millions of people losing their health insurance,” the office did not consider the impact of an expected GOP replacement plan. In reality, the GOP has yet to produce a consensus replacement plan, thus giving the CBO nothing to rate, and all existing plans that Republicans have put forward would strip coverage from millions. 

PolitiFact Rates Baldwin’s Claim That Republicans Want To Take Away People’s Health Care “Mostly False”

PolitiFact: “We Rate Baldwin’s Statement” That The GOP Is Trying To Take Away People’s Health Care “Mostly False.” In a February 8 article, PolitiFact rated Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s January 6 claim that the GOP is “‘organizing to take people’s health care away’” “mostly false” because while the Congressional Budget Office found that “repeal of the Affordable Care Act could result in millions of people losing their health insurance,” the office did not examine the effect of any replacement legislation.” PolitiFact also noted that “prominent congressional Republicans – and Trump – have repeatedly said they intend to propose alternative legislation that would aim to give all people access to health care” in assessing Baldwin’s claim:

Does the GOP want to take away your health care?

That’s what U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, claimed in a Jan. 6, 2017 interview with Wisconsin Public Television.

Republicans, Baldwin said, are "organizing to take people’s health care away."

[…]

But leading Republicans have also said they intend to enact replacement legislation still aimed at providing people with health coverage.

How does that all square with Baldwin’s statement that Republicans are "organizing to take people’s health care away."

[…]

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported in January 2017 — after Baldwin made the claim — that 18 million people would be uninsured within a year if key portions of the law were repealed. The office further projected that number would grow to 32 million people by 2026.

But there’s more to the story.

The congressional report was exclusively focused on the impact of abolishing Obamacare and did not consider replacement legislation. Moreover, prominent Republicans have repeatedly said they would seek to replace the law with an alternative:

• Days after he was elected in November, Trump said the ACA "will be repealed and replaced." He later told The Washington Post in January: "We’re going to have insurance for everybody."

 […]

Baldwin said that Republicans are "organizing to take people's health care away."

While the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that repeal of the Affordable Care Act could result in millions of people losing their health insurance, that finding did not examine the effect of any replacement legislation.

Prominent congressional Republicans — and Trump — have repeatedly said they intend to propose alternative legislation that would aim to give all people access to health care.

For a statement that contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, we rate Baldwin’s statement Mostly False. [PolitiFact, 2/8/17]

But PolitiFact’s Assessment Relies On GOP Statements About Intent When Republicans Actually Have No Plan

Huff. Post: “Senate Republicans Have Not Yet Begun To Work In Earnest On A Replacement Plan.” The Huffington Post reported that Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “‘To be honest, there’s not any real discussion taking place right now’” about a GOP replacement plan. The article noted that the GOP has “various competing plans, which are at different levels of completeness,” and that this is “a sign of how far Republicans are from a consensus on how to move forward.” From the February 7 article:

Senate Republicans have not yet begun to work in earnest on a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Tuesday.

[…]

“To be honest, there’s not any real discussion taking place right now,” Corker told reporters in the Capitol.

[…]

Asked when Republicans might get down to the business of crafting an Obamacare alternative, Corker said he wasn’t sure.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I’m not on a committee that deals with this ... but I don’t see any congealing around ideas yet. And I think it’s fine that we take our time. I thought the The Wall Street Journal editorial today was dead on. I mean, we’re dealing with something that is very important, very complicated. It’s explosive if not handled properly, and we should take our time and do it right.”

[…]

Rather than show that the Senate GOP is on top of an Obamacare replacement, the existence of these various competing plans, which are at different levels of completeness, are instead a sign of how far Republicans are from a consensus on how to move forward ― the “congealing around ideas” Corker referred to. It also illustrates Corker’s observation that no one in the upper chamber is in charge of aligning the disparate efforts. [The Huffington Post, 2/7/17]

MSNBC: The GOP “Is A Party That Has No Plan, But Does Have Some New Buzzwords.” MSNBC reported on the GOP repeal efforts, noting that “GOP officials have been working on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act since the summer of 2009, and they’ve produced nothing of significance.” The article emphasized that “GOP leaders – on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – vastly over-promised on what they could deliver,” leaving the GOP as “a party that has no plan.” From the February 8 article (emphasis original):

As the GOP repeal crusade hits a brick wall, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this wasn’t the way Republicans expected the process to go. As recently as Jan. 10, Trump said his party would repeal the health care reform law “probably sometime next week,” and he’d be ready to move forward on a replacement “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.” A few days earlier, Mike Pence said repealing the ACA would be the “first order of business” for Republican policymakers in 2017.

The entire campaign was going to snowball before Obamacare proponents even knew what hit them – right up until the snowball melted.

 […]

Making matters much worse, GOP leaders – on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – vastly over-promised on what they could deliver, painting the party into a corner from which there is no easy escape.

What’s left is a party that has no plan, but does have some new buzzwords Paul Ryan seems to like. It seems oddly appropriate given the circumstances: when Republican policymakers were supposed to be working on substance, in classic post-policy fashion, they instead focused on public relations and talking points.

The core truths, however, remain the same: GOP officials have been working on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act since the summer of 2009, and they’ve produced nothing of significance because they can’t. Their ideology won’t allow them to craft an effective reform blueprint, and political considerations won’t allow them to unveil a bad one. [MSNBC, 2/8/17]

Morning Consult: “Republicans Have Not Coalesced Around One Replacement Plan.” Morning Consult noted that “Republicans in the Senate are not on the same page when it comes to the timing for a replacement plan.” The article outlined divisions within Republicans “on whether to repeal and replace the law simultaneously” and emphasized that “Republicans have not coalesced around one replacement plan.” From the January 10 article: 

President-elect Donald Trump wants Congress to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act “probably sometime next week,” and replace the law “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter,” he told the New York Times on Tuesday. But Republicans in the Senate are not on the same page when it comes to the timing for a replacement plan.

[…]

Republicans have not coalesced around one replacement plan. While House Republicans have put forth their “Better Way” agenda, the outline leaves out specific details that would be required by legislation, and GOP senators have not agreed on a plan.

They have also been split on whether to repeal and replace the law simultaneously. GOP leaders initially said they would repeal the law and leave a multi-year transition, during which they would replace it. But House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday morning that the goal would be to repeal and replace the law concurrently. [Morning Consult, 1/10/17]

And All Existing Republican Replacement Proposals Would Reduce Coverage By Millions

Vox’s Sarah Kliff: All The GOP Replacement Plans “Reduce The Number Of Americans With Insurance Coverage.” Vox health care expert Sarah Kliff analyzed all the existing Obamacare replacement proposals and found that “these plans reduce the number of Americans with insurance coverage” by between “3 million to 21 million, depending on which option Republicans pick.” She noted that the GOP replacement “will near certainly provide more coverage than Americans had before Obamacare, but also less than what exists currently under the health law.” From the November 17 article :

But Obamacare repeal would leave an estimated 22 million Americans without coverage and wreak havoc on the individual insurance market. It’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans can’t just repeal Obamacare — they need to replace it with something.

It turns out Republicans have a lot of choices: There are at least seven different replacement plans that Republican legislators and conservative think tanks have offered in recent years. I’ve spent the past week reading them, and what I’ve learned is this:

  • Yes, Republicans have replacement plans. It is true that the party has not coalesced around one plan — but there are real policy proposals coming from Republican legislators and conservative think tanks. There is a base that the party can work from in crafting a replacement plan.
  • There is significant variation in what the plans propose. On one end of the spectrum, you see plans from President-elect Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with virtually nothing. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plans from conservative think tanks that go as far as to keep the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and continue to give low-income Americans the most generous insurance subsidies.
  • If we can say one thing about most Republican plans, it is this: They are better for younger, healthy people and worse for older, sicker people. In general, conservative replacement plans offer less financial help to those who would use a lot of insurance. This will make their insurance subsidies significantly less expensive than Obamacare’s.
  • Economic analyses estimate that these plans reduce the number of Americans with insurance coverage. The actual amount varies significantly, from 3 million to 21 million, depending on which option Republicans pick. They will near certainly provide more coverage than Americans had before Obamacare, but also less than what exists currently under the health law. [Vox, 11/17/16]

Despite Some GOP Platitudes, Most Top Republicans Still Refuse To Say On Record That Their Replacement Plan Will Maintain ACA Coverage Gains

Bloomberg: “Top Republicans In Congress Are Refusing To Promise That Their Plans To Replace Obamacare Won’t Result In More Uninsured Americans.” Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reported on January 5, the day before Baldwin made her statement, that “top Republicans in Congress are refusing to promise that their plans to replace Obamacare won’t result in more uninsured Americans.” Kapur noted that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, “‘Look, I’m not going to get ahead of our committee process,’” and “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was also reluctant to make that commitment.” Kapur added, “That contradicts Trump’s assurances during the campaign that he won’t throw people off health-insurance coverage.” From the January 5 article:

Top Republicans in Congress are refusing to promise that their plans to replace Obamacare won’t result in more uninsured Americans, putting them on a possible collision course with President-elect Donald Trump.

"Look, I’m not going to get ahead of our committee process," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday when asked if he can guarantee a GOP replacement would cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act. "We’re just beginning to put this together."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was also reluctant to make that commitment when asked on Tuesday, saying, "There’s a lot of areas that you want to look at."

Congress’s official scorekeeper estimated in 2015 that repealing Obamacare would strip insurance from about 19 million people in one year. Republicans lack consensus on a replacement plan, but the ideas offered so far provide much less financial aid to purchase coverage and are likely to lead to more uninsured people, as current and former Republican aides who work on health-care policy privately admit.

That contradicts Trump’s assurances during the campaign that he won’t throw people off health-insurance coverage. "Where I may be different than other people — I want to take care of everybody," he told CNN in July 2015. [Bloomberg, 1/5/17]

Vox: “The One Question Republican Senators Really Don’t Want To Answer” Is Whether “Their Replacement Plans [Will] Cover As Many People.” Vox’s Sarah Kliff reported that when Senate Republicans were asked “about whether they expected their replacement plans to cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act. The answers were ... not plentiful.” When she “repeated the question about coverage specifically” to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), “he turned around and walked away.” From the January 10 article (emphasis original):

Will Republicans’ replacement plan cover as many people as Obamacare? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ — I spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill, talking to Senate Republicans about whether they expected their replacement plans to cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act. The answers were ... not plentiful.

I put the question to Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who told me, “We’ve got to have a plan that is better than Obamacare. Obamacare has failed on its initial goals, the promises that were made, so I look forward to having a plan in place that will actually work for the American people.” I repeated the question about coverage specifically, at which point he turned around and walked away.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) told me this: “You know what I think. That’s a complicated question for me to answer. I think if you look at where we were before Obamacare, 85 percent, we’re at 91 percent now. So 6 percent is 18 to 20 million people. The question is how do you create access without it being federal government–centric? Which I think we can make sure it’s accessible to folks; then they can make their own decisions.”

When I repeated the question, whether those 18 to 20 million people would have coverage under a Republican replacement, he said, “Depends on the definition of when they have coverage. They will have the opportunity to make a decision for coverage.” [Vox, 1/10/17]

GOP Budget Resolution Votes Prove GOP Isn’t Serious About Maintaining Health Coverage For Millions Of Americans

ThinkProgress: “Republicans Say They Want To Replace Obamacare With Something Better,” But Vote-A-Rama Shows “They Are Not On Your Side.” ThinkProgress reported on the Senate’s January “vote-a-rama” that “provides a pathway for Republicans to strip health care coverage away from 30 million Americans.” The article noted that “Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with something better,” but that they “took several votes on symbolic amendments,” including protections for people with pre-existing conditions, young adults, contraception coverage, and Medicaid expansion, “that showed they are not on your side.” From the January 12 article: 

Last night while you were sleeping, the Senate debated and ultimately passed a budget resolution that provides a pathway for Republicans to strip health care coverage away from 30 million Americans without having a single Democratic vote.

[…]

Senate Republicans took several votes on symbolic amendments offered by Democrats that showed they are not on your side.

Last night, Republicans voted against amendments that would:

1. Protect people with pre-existing conditions

Republicans blocked an amendment that would have made it harder to take away coverage from Americans with preexisting medical conditions. 52 million people — about 1 in 4 non-elderly Americans — have preexisting conditions. These Americans are more likely to face significant health costs, and before the Affordable Care Act, were often denied coverage entirely. The amendment also would have protected coverage for people disabilities or chronic health conditions, and prevent plans from discriminating based on health. Republicans currently have no alternative plan to insure people with preexisting conditions. Only two Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins and Nevada’s Dean Heller — voted for the amendment.

2. Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan

Republicans blocked an amendment by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin that would have made it easier for young people to stay on their parents’ health care plan until they are 26 — one of the most popular and effective provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Over 6 million young adults have gained health insurance since the law was implemented in 2010, and young Americans now report better physical and mental health. The provision is also overwhelmingly popular — 85 percent favor keeping young people on their parents’ insurance plans. Sens. Heller and Collins were the only two senators who bucked their party on this vote.

3. Maintain access to contraceptive coverage

Thanks to Obamacare, birth control is more affordable than ever. Spending on contraceptive health care has gone down by 20 percent since the Affordable Care Act took effect. An amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sought to continue this momentum. Unsurprisingly, Republicans blocked the provision 49–49. Sens. Collins and Heller both voted with Democrats.

4. Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act benefited 11 million low-income Americans in 2015 alone and has created thousands of jobs for direct care workers. An amendment by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) would have sought to continue Medicaid expansion, but it was blocked by Republicans — 48–50.

5. Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP

 […]

Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with something better. But in just one night’s votes, they indicated that they are not willing to take a stand to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions, women, children, veterans, young adults, people with disabilities, and struggling families can continue to access the affordable coverage they need going forward. [ThinkProgress, 1/12/17]

MSNBC: “Republicans Have Tried To Repeal All Or Part Of The ACA” 62 Times As Of February 2016.MSNBC’s Steve Benen reported on the GOP’s 2016 Groundhog Day vote to repeal the ACA, noting that “estimates vary on exactly how many times Republicans have tried to repeal all or part of the ACA, but the last time I checked, they were up to 62.” From the February 2 article:

Asked about today’s events, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “Republicans are poised to host another vote in the United States Congress today for the 60th time to repeal Obamacare. It’s almost like it’s Groundhog Day, except today it is actually Groundhog Day and they’re doing it again.”

Earnest added, “So I’m not really sure that qualifies as the contours of a proactive legislative agenda but it does put some pressure on Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell, and other Republicans in Congress, to lay out what it is exactly they support and try to find some common ground with the administration.”

For the record, estimates vary on exactly how many times Republicans have tried to repeal all or part of the ACA, but the last time I checked, they were up to 62. In other words, Earnest might have been understating the case a bit. [MSNBC, 2/2/16]

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.