Gardner fact check: He and Udall voted for same Medicare ‘cuts’
False assertion: ‘Udall’s the only one in this election who has voted to cut millions of seniors off of Medicare Advantage’
On his way to building what has turned out to be landslide state Republican support for his bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Udall this year, Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner has been tearing through small party delegate gatherings across the Front Range for weeks, delivering electrifying short speeches. In at least one of those, he repeated a line that has become a staple of Republican stump speeches around the country — but he went beyond stretching the truth and twisted it into an ironic tangle.
At the Arapahoe County Republican Assembly held March 29 at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School, Gardner delivered a short stump speech and then visited various meetings of state legislative district delegates. According to audio obtained by the Colorado Independent from an attendee at a House District 3 session, Gardner said that “Mark Udall cut Medicare and cut Medicare Advantage… He’s the only one in this election who has voted to cut millions of seniors off of Medicare Advantage.”
Medicare Advantage is a George W. Bush program that has private companies bill the government to service Medicare patients.
Gardner was responding to a question about a television ad being run in Colorado by the pro-Democrat Senate Majority PAC, which claimed Gardner supported a plan to “end Medicare’s guarantee” that would force seniors to pay more for care. (Click on the image to listen to the exchange.)
Gardner: Let me put it this way, the Democrats don’t like Republicans and they don’t like the fact that we are trying to get people out of the thumbprint of Obamacare. But those ads are geared toward hiding the fact that Mark Udall cut Medicare and cut Medicare Advantage. He increased taxes. They are going to do everything they can to make this election not about Obamacare, but you know what, that bill hurts every single one of us.
Delegate: He voted to exempt himself!
Gardner: He did, he voted to exempt himself, too. That’s what those attacks are. He’s the only one in this election who has voted to cut millions of seniors off of Medicare Advantage.
The Gardner campaign didn’t return messages seeking comment about his position on Medicare yesterday.
But the Fourth-District Congressman has been running on an anti-Obamacare platform since he announced his Senate bid in February. Indeed, he has campaigned against the law since 2010, when he won his first election to Congress. He’s not alone in running against Obamacare, of course, nor in accusing his Democratic opponent of slashing Medicare.
The assertion that the Affordable Care Act will cut Medicare funding has been made by Republicans for years. Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan made the same claim in 2012. As Tampa Bay Times Pulitzer-prize-winning project PolitiFact pointed out in February, “It appears the GOP playbook for the 2014 midterms will be similar.”
The site dings a National Republican Congressional Committee ad that made the claim as part of an attack on Democrat Alex Sink, who was running in Florida’s U.S. House special election.
PolitiFact explained that “neither Obama nor his health care law literally ‘cut’ a dollar from the Medicare program’s budget.”
The site explains that “Obamacare” seeks to lower costs overall for Medicare patients by demanding increased efficiency on the part of health care providers. No benefits to patients would be cut.
President George W. Bush started Medicare Advantage in hopes the increased competition would reduce costs. But those plans are actually costlier than traditional Medicare. So the health care law reduces payments to private insurers. Hospitals, too, will be paid less if they have too many re-admissions, or if they fail to meet other new benchmarks for patient care.
The goal is get health care providers to increase their efficiency and quality of care instead of cutting benefits for seniors.
The overall trend in Medicare spending is still expected to increase, even after the adjustments in the Affordable Care Act.
In 2013, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the “Obamacare” program would save taxpayers $716 billion. Those same projected Medicare savings are included in Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican budget, first floated in 2008 as the “Roadmap for America’s Future Act.” In 2012, Ryan renamed it “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal.” Gardner has voted to support Ryan’s plan repeatedly. Gardner cast his most recent vote for the Ryan budget last week, on April 10.
It is a matter of public record that Udall did not vote to “cut Medicare” and that he isn’t “the only one in this election to vote to cut Medicare Advantage.” Gardner voted for the same cost-savings every time he voted for the Ryan budget.
At the Democratic National Convention in 2012, former President Bill Clinton pointed out that Ryan himself was campaigning on the claim that Obamacare cut Medicare by $716 billion.
“When I saw that, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” said Clinton. “Because, that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of medicare savings that he had in his own budget. You gotta give him one thing: it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”
As Gardner’s campaign heats up, he is drawing increasing attention from fact checkers. One of his go-to lines in the weeks since he declared his intention to run for Senate has been that Udall “cast the deciding vote for Obamacare.”
PolitiFact recently rated that claim “mostly false.”
“Because Udall had consistently sided with the Democratic leadership in votes related to the act, he was not among the handful of undecided senators who [Majority Leader Harry] Reid had to wrangle as the vote was approaching,” PolitiFact reported.
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