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Commentary by Carole Lutness
| Monday, Dec 16, 2013

carolelutnessmugTroubled by a mailer received from Assemblyman Scott Wilk, members of the SCV Fair Elections Committee have filed a complaint against the Republican Caucus for their Covering Health Care California website (coveringhelthcareca.com), which the committee believes contains “distortions, lies and misinformation.”

The group reviewed the website and found factual errors and misleading statements which appear to be a deliberate attempt to discourage the public from participating in and supporting the Affordable Care Act.

Rather than directing the public to the official California ACA website, Covered California (coveredca.com), the Republican website promotes a negative, alarmist perspective that could confuse and dissuade people from signing up for the program.

For example, the Covering Health Care California (Republican Caucus) website states: “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in a March 2012 report that coverage expenses under the Affordable Care Act will cost the country a total of $1.76 trillion.”

Fact checking by the SCV Fair Election Committee found that the Congressional Budget Office actually projected that the ACA will lower both future deficits and Medicare spending, and that slower growth in health spending because of the ACA might boost jobs.

The committee found that rather than health-care spending increasing, it has hit a new low. Health care costs rose by only 1.3 percent per year from 2010 to 2013, according to a recent report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers.  That’s the lowest increase in a three-year period on record. White House officials cite the 2010 ACA as a main factor in lowering costs.

Additionally, the Republican website claims there will be cuts to Medicare provider rates to pay for other components of the Affordable Care Act such as expanding Medicaid (MediCAL) coverage to anyone with less than $16,000 yearly income. The site claims: “Medicare providers will see rate cuts nearing $200 billion over the next decade. These cuts could potentially result in the exodus of doctors from the Medicare system and force Medicare recipients to find new providers, possibly facing longer wait times for care as that pool of doctors shrinks.”

The SCV Fair Elections Committee found through the national fact-checking source Politifact, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012: “Neither Obama nor his health care law literally cut a dollar amount 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.”

What kind of spending reductions are we really talking about? They are mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries.

The actual nature of the cuts from the Affordable Care Act, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS.gov), are are:

*Reducing excessive Medicare payments to private insurers who operate in Medicare Advantage ($68 billion);

*Reforming provider payments, including improved productivity ($85 billion);

*Improving patient safety through the Partnership for Patients ($10 billion);

*Cracking down on fraud and abuse in the Medicare system and getting the best value for Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers for durable medical equipment ($7.8 billion);

*Additional provisions, including the net effect of expanded benefits, lowered payments for hospital acquired conditions, readmissions reductions, and adjustment to premium subsidies ($41 billion).

The Committee looked at Snopes, Pants on Fire, Fact Check, Wikipedia, numerous newspaper articles and other fact-checking sources and found scores of instances of distortions and misinformation on the Republican Caucus website.

Nearly 100 people have asked to be co-signers of the complaint. What concerns people is not just the misinformation on the Republican Caucus website, but also the spirit in which it portrays the ACA.

We know that Assemblyman Scot Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and other Republican legislators used taxpayer money to send out the mailer about the website, and that the website itself may have been paid for by taxpayer money.

These legislators are sworn officers of our state government and, as such, we believe they should be upholding the law, not trying to undermine it.

The committee believes there may be violations that should be investigated by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Attorney General’s office.  Public money should not be used to further a political agenda.

This story has been widely publicized over the last few days. Many people are outraged by such blatant political, mean-spirited behavior by elected officials.  The committee believes this mailing, paid for by taxpayer money, and the website appear to represent a misuse of public funds, a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and a violation of the public oath of office which should be investigated and if appropriate, prosecuted by both the FPPC and the AG offices.

 

Carole Lutness is chair of the SCV Fair Elections Committee.

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6 Comments

  1. Debbie K says:

    Oh, yes, I feel confident in their findings, knowing the SCV Fair Elections Committee used Snopes and Wikipedia,and other fact-checking sources, to make their determinations! That’s not an investigation, any more so than using press releases would be for a news story. Seriously?

  2. Jeff F says:

    I agree.

    Wikipedia, as a definitive source of research, are you kidding me? Even a high school student knows better than that.

    I think its the SCV Election committee that needs to be investigated for incompetence.

    The part about debunking the Medicare cuts also makes me laugh. Looks like the GOP site is warning that hospitals and providers will leave the Medicare system due to the ACA’s rate cuts.

    The author then points out “What kind of spending reductions are we really talking about? They are mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries.”

    Isn’t that exactly what the site is saying?

  3. Nanette Meister says:

    Why should tax payers pay for a political view of republicans? Please do not reward lies or cheaters. People need affordable health insurance, it is the law of the land, sending people to a phony web site is plain wrong.

  4. Josh Heath says:

    Very sad. One party presents solutions, and the other manipulates them.

  5. Diana Shaw says:

    I,too, found Assemblyman Wilk’s mailer troublesome. Casting stones at the good people who are fact checking Wilk’s assertions is a misplaced use of energy, and certainly not constructive. Splitting hairs over the accuracy of Wikipedia is a distraction. I followed the link on the Assemblyman’s flyer to the Covering Healthcare California website. First I got confused, because this was obviously not a website dedicated to education about the new law, but rather a sophomoric, transparently and embarrassingly partisan treatment. Let’s face it, people need insurance. None of us benefits from sick people crowding our emergency rooms, while hospitals spread the costs of their treatment to those who assume the responsibility of paying their fair share. If consumers either can’t afford insurance or fail to demonstrate personal responsibility to my detriment, well, its time to make them pay their fair share. If the ACA needs tweaking, tweak it. But, don’t scare people into not getting insurance, so that I end up paying for their care! The uninsured hurt all of us, including themselves.

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