Flattery: Karl Rove tweaked our reporting for a Crossroads ad

Let’s play a fun game, what single word makes these two sentences different?

“On the eastern plains, patients now outnumber their doctors 5,000 to one.”

“On the eastern plains, patients outnumber their doctors 5,000 to one.”

The first sentence is from the voiceover on an ad brought out by Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS political action committee. It’s an anti-Udall, anti-Obamacare ad. The second sentence is from an article we published in the spring, which you may have caught if you’re a fan of lengthy policy reporting. The story was titled “Cracking Colorado’s Rural Healthcare Conundrum.”

You’re clever. The difference is the word “now,” and it’s the difference between true and, well, not true, because “now” makes the 5,000-to-one figure look like an outcome of the Affordable Care Act. The figure has nothing to do with the new law.

“All of that data is pre 2014 Affordable Care Act implementation, so pre-Medicaid expansion, pre-ACA rollout,” confirmed Rebecca Alderfer, Colorado Health Institute senior analyst and an author of the report we cited in our article about the systemic challenges facing rural health care expansion.

In addition to being unrelated to the ACA time-wise, the figure is also not directly about insurance. Specifically, it reflects the number of primary care doctors in relation to the number of people living in their area. It’s not a figure that speaks to the number of insured people or the number of providers who will accept their insurance. Alderfer tells us it’s too soon for figures that will tell how the ACA has impacted health care accessibility in rural areas, but that the Institute will have a full report on that — including figures from the 2014 open enrollment period — this time next year.

The ad’s other reference to The Colorado Independent’s article has a little more “truthiness” to it. Namely, the figure about folks in places like Summit County being unable to find post-ACA insurance plans that cost less than 30 percent of their income. That was a major issue last legislative session for Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), who pushed both for the insurance cost-setting regions to be redrawn and for a legislative study of underlying health care costs to be conducted.

In non-Colorado Independent cited statements, the ad also trots out the familiar “Udall cast the deciding vote on Obamacare” line, which the folks at PolitiFact have long rated as “mostly false.”

[Still from Crossroads GPS’s latest ad]