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Reality Check: Obama ad cites AARP on Medicare

Published On: Oct 25 2012 05:58:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 25 2012 10:02:18 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

President Barack Obama is using a nonpartisan voter guide to show voters what he believes are some favorable facts about his policies.

But a WISC-TV analysis found claims in the television ad are part fact and part spin.

"The new AARP voter guide is out with facts you need on Medicare," the announcer says in the ad. "Fact: Barack Obama will protect your guaranteed benefits and will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program."

WISC-TV found this is true. Right now, when a senior turns 65, he or she is automatically eligible for Medicare, guaranteed. Most health benefits are then covered under the program, such as doctor or hospital visits and most testing.

Obama's plan for Medicare, which is partially outlined in his federal health care law, would keep the Medicare program largely as it is. And rather than changing benefits for seniors, it would instead cut payments to health care providers to keep the program solvent.

"Fact: Mitt Romney would take away Medicare's guaranteed benefits and instead give retirees premium support or vouchers," the announcer says in the ad.

WISC-TV found this needs clarification. First, it should be noted that the voter guide shown in the ad does not say that any benefits would be taken away. Instead, it quotes Romney's website, saying he would give seniors a premium support or voucher and allow them to choose their insurance plan. That could be a private plan or traditional Medicare.

Would that take away any benefits? It's unclear. Since "traditional Medicare" is an option, conceivably seniors could get the same benefits if the voucher they got covered the cost of that plan. But the Congressional Budget Office hasn't done a full analysis on the latest budget proposal outlining this, so it's not known how the costs could compare.

"AARP opposes that plan, and nonpartisan analysts say it could raise seniors' costs up to $6,400 a year," the announcer says.

WISC-TV found this needs clarification. AARP, which is nonpartisan, sent a letter to Congress expressing some concerns over the GOP budget plan to alter Medicare and other programs earlier this year. AARP said the GOP budget plan could increase costs for Medicare users and could "price some out" of traditional Medicare. Finally, the group noted, "While we appreciate the effort to address the sustainability of the Medicare program, we do not think it is appropriate to subject Medicare beneficiaries to an experimental and unproven health care model."

The cost estimate claim is misleading, WISC-TV found. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is actually a liberal think tank, and that estimate of a $6,400 increase was of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's first budget proposal to change Medicare, not the latest one. There has been no budget office analysis for the new plan.

If you have an idea for a Reality Check, send it to realitycheck@channel3000.com. 

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