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2012 Election Myths: Make Sense of the Mud-Slinging

Being an informed voter means sometimes having to wade through the sticky aftermath of deceptive political ads and podium-pounding tirades.

The current focus on health care and government entitlement program reform means that seniors and their caregivers are being courted by both President Obama and Governor Romney. Even if you think you know where each candidate stands, it can be hard to sort out fact from fiction.

Here are some common claims (and their clarifications) that are being passed around by each camp:

  • Obama will cut $500 billion from Medicare-This statement makes it seem like the Affordable Care Act is cutting the existing Medicare budget by hundreds of billions of dollars. What it actually does, according to Buckley Fricker, J.D., G.C.M., a geriatric care manager and president of Buckley's For Seniors, a companion company for seniors, is attempt to decrease the projected rise in Medicare costs over the next decade. The law does not reduce benefits for current Medicare beneficiaries. Instead, it sets out to cut future costs by diminishing the growth rate of reimbursements to hospitals and other non-physician health care providers, as well as private Medicare Advantage plan operators. These cuts have yet to be implemented.
  • Romney will "end Medicare as we know it"- This is not so much a myth, as it is a misleading statement about Romney's plans to reign in Medicare spending. It is true that Romney wants to fundamentally change the way the Medicare system operates. According to Fricker, instead of having the government-backed health insurance program operate in its own economic sub-sphere, Romney wants to have it compete in an open market with private programs. Seniors would no longer receive benefits in the traditional sense, but would be given a pre-determined amount of money from the government (termed a "premium support payment") that they could use to purchase health insurance. The payment amount would be based on the prices charged by Medicare or the second-least expensive private plan, whichever is lower.
  • Obama will raise taxes—to the tune of $500 billion-Obama's tax plan involves letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire for people making more than $200,000 a year, and extending them for individuals making less than that amount. The Affordable Care Act also contains provisions for a "Medicare payroll tax" of 0.9 percent and a 3.8 percent investment income tax for people who make more than $200,000 a year. The reality is, if a person makes less than that magic number—$200,000—they aren't likely to experience dramatic tax increases
  • Romney's Medicare plan will raise seniors' health care costs by $6,350 per year-Romney has indicated that his plan for Medicare reform will closely mimic the plan put forth by U.S. Congressman, Republican Paul Ryan. According to an analysis done by factchecker.org, a nonpartisan website created by the University of Pennsylvania, opponents of Romney's Medicare proposal arrived at the $6,350 figure by comparing the candidate's plan to a similarly-constructed plan, put forth by Ryan in 2011. Based on the tenants of the old Ryan plan, the Congressional Budget Office did indeed find that a senior might have to pay as much as $6,400 more per year for the same Medicare plan. However, the comparison no longer makes sense in light of the amendments that Ryan recently made to his budgetary strategy. There are two main differences between Ryan's original plan and his current one. One, seniors would have the option of being able to enroll in a Medicare fee-for-service program if they did not want to purchase private health insurance. And two, the government payments made to seniors for purchasing health insurance would be based on the price of the second least-expensive private plan, or traditional Medicare, whichever is cheaper. These changes muddy the water of this particular debate. Seniors may or may not have to pay more under Ryan's (and thus, Romney's) plan—it's too soon to tell what the exact ramifications would be.
  • (Candidate's Name) is starting a war against (Seniors, Women, Religion, etc.)-Perhaps the most consistent refrain of the current election is one side accusing the other of warring against a particular group of people. While they make for spicy political rhetoric, these statements are merely attempts to polarize voters on various issues.
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