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(UPDATED) Nonpartisan fact checkers says Medicare attack ads only half true

By Lombardo David
Thursday, October 11, 2012

A 30-second television ad in which Republican Matt Doheny attacks U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, is the type of attack ad that is only half true, according to a nonpartisan fact-checking website.

The two candidates are vying to represent the 21st Congressional District, which includes portions of Fulton and Saratoga counties.

The common refrain in ads this election season that are against Democrats who voted for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is that the legislation cut $716 billion from Medicare. In the latest Doheny ad, a nice old lady criticizes Owens for cutting Medicare as text opens on the bottom of the screen saying Owens “Voted to CUT Medicare by $716 billion.”

Another, slightly angrier old lady, chimes in, “And his cuts will gut Medicare Advantage, a program I depend on.”

These announcements are met by head shaking and a condemnation of Owens by Matt Doheny’s mom.

According to the non-partisan fact checking website PolitiFact, these types of charged allegations are only half-true because they don't paint the whole picture regarding the Affordable Care Act's impact on Medicare. The entire ad is available below.

“Obamacare does not literally cut funding from the Medicare program’s budget. Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to try to bring down future health care costs in the program,” says PolitiFact.

The act came with spending reductions, but mainly to insurance companies and hospitals. In the case of Medicare Advantage, which was implemented by President George W. Bush and has cost more than traditional Medicare, it is the private insurers who are seeing their payments cut. Additionally, hospitals will be paid less only if they fail to meet certain standards of patient care or have too many readmissions.

Also, projected Medicare spending is projected to increase for the near future at the very least.

Because the act tries to control spending, though, there is a planned reduction in the growth of costs. A recent estimate from the Congressional Budget Office predicted the decrease would be a $716 billion decrease in outlays from 2013 to 2022.

As a result, PolitiFact found that any allegations that the Affordable Care Act would "cut" Medicare, need to be explained more to be accurate.

UPDATED, 4:54 p.m.: "Bill Owens voted to cut Medicare by $716 billion by voting for ObamaCare. If you don't take our word for it, would you take President Obama's? He said it was a cut. Or Stephanie Cutter, his spokesman? She said it was a cut. Or Nancy Pelosi? She did too," said Doheny Spokesman Jude Seymour.

"The sad fact is that Owens' vote for ObamaCare was a vote to cut Medicare's reimbursement rates to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes by $415 billion. That reduction in fees has convinced several doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients, which limits access. Owens also voted for the creation of an Independent Payment Advisory Board - 15 bureaucrats who, as a House Ways & Means panel heard in March, lack 'flexibility to do much more than cut provider payments that would lead to a reduction in access to care.' If limiting access to quality, efficient care isn't a benefit cut, we're not sure what is," Seymour said. "Our ad reflects those realities and is a truth every voter needs to hear when deciding between these two candidates."

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