Earlier in the week I posted the commercial in the above video from the DCCC on Facebook and the consensus was that 1) it is a good thing that Democrats are making use of the Republican vote to eliminate Medicare and 2) this particular commercial is not very good. I expressed displeasure that the Democrats might actually manage to fail to benefit from the Republican vote due to their inability to coherently promote their views.
The ad is now receiving more controversy as PolitiFact made some major blunders in their review of the ad. The problem is that the fact checkers are journalists who attempt to determine the truth but cannot be experts on all matters. Health care law is complicated, and I have found similar lack of understanding on their part in the past (as in the discussion to this post). PolitiFact is wrong when they say that the Republican proposal was not a vote to end Medicare. They might replace it with something they call Medicare but giving vouchers to buy private insurance is totally different than the Medicare plan, and does not provide seniors or the disabled with the same type of health care benefits.
It might be better for future ads to add the qualifier of ending Medicare as we know it to avoid similar criticism from reporters who do not understand the difference, but it is still correct to say the Republican proposal would end Medicare. If a city voted to eliminate their fire department and give every citizen a bucket and hose every year and call this the fire department, it would still be accurate to say that the city did vote to eliminate their fire department.
PolitiFact agrees with the main point of the ad that the change will ask “future Medicare beneficiaries to pay more for insurance.” Further in their analysis they write that “future beneficiaries would pay more for current levels of coverage, and that some will decide to go without any insurance.” These are key facts which support the argument which the DCCC attempted to make in their commercial.
PoltiFact makes another error in their analysis in saying, “In reality, people 55 and older won’t see changes under the Ryan plan.” This does not contradict the commercial as the ad is referring to changes to occur in the future . Nowhere doe sit say it is referring to current seniors. In addition, it is also probable that those 55 and older will see changes as people younger than 55 are not likely to support continued support for the Medicare program if they are never able to benefit from it. People over 55 have good reason to oppose the GOP proposal.
There are other errors in their analysis, with one of the worst being, “The Republicans voted on a budget resolution that states policy preferences, but the vote did not actually change Medicare, much less end it.” The ad does not claim that the vote changed anything. It refers to what the Republicans support, and it is certainly fair game to hold the Republicans accountable for what they voted for. Jonathan Chait has a good summary of these and other errors made by PolitiFact.
The problem with the ad is not that it is untrue but that it doesn’t do a good enough job of pointing out that the Republicans did vote to end Medicare. This fact should not be limited to text on screen which people may or may not read. This is an important message which should be included in the audio portion of the ad. It is likely that this message will be lost among the scenes of seniors mowing the lawn and dancing, with viewers missing the actual message. Any ad should prominently tell viewers that the Republicans did vote to eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher program, and then proceed to explain how this will lead to higher costs, reduced health care, and possibly the inability to find insurance at all. After all, many insurance companies are already beginning to abandon the Medicare Advantage market now that the government subsidies they receive for insuring this high risk group are being reduced.