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PolitiFact: Chamber Medicare claims twist the truth

You can officially abandon any hope of a respite from political ads this spring and summer.

The latest: a TV ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claiming seniors could lose coverage thanks to "Obamacare." It pins the blame on U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

You've probably seen it. The ad intersperses its own commentary with video footage of Nelson speaking on the Senate floor.

The chamber ad makes two basic claims about the health care law:

1) That "20 million people could lose their current coverage" … "including our senior citizens who are on Medicare."

2) And that "seniors will see $500 billion in Medicare cuts to fund Obamacare."

Both are deceptive, one more so than the other.

(You can watch the 30-second ad at PolitiFact.com/Florida.)

The first claim makes it sound like 20 million older Americans will lose coverage under the health care law.

But the figure the chamber cites comes from a report of people who could lose employer-provided insurance because of the health care law. That's not older Americans.

And even in the proper context, the number is still misleading.

First, that estimate is the highest number of several estimates and scenarios that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office examined. Second, some portion of that number are people voluntarily switching to other, better coverage — not being forced out of coverage against their will. Third, these numbers ignore estimates that say 9 million people who didn't have employer coverage will get it because of the law.

In short, we found no evidence that older Americans — or specifically Medicare beneficiaries — will lose coverage under the health care law.

The chamber is trying to scare the pants off Florida seniors in this one, but this statement is Pants on Fire!

The second claim, that "seniors will see $500 billion in Medicare cuts to fund Obamacare," fares only slightly better on the Truth-O-Meter.

That's because Medicare spending isn't being "cut" in the way the ad would lead you to believe.

The health care law slows the future growth of Medicare spending by about $500 billion over the next decade.

Put simply, Medicare's budget will continue to grow — just at a smaller rate than had originally been projected.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects Medicare spending will reach $929 billion in 2020, up from $499 billion in actual spending in 2009.

The chamber is correct on one point, however: The spending reductions to Medicare are intended to offset, to some extent, the overall cost of the new health care law.

That's the small kernel of truth in this particular claim. But overall, it only rates Mostly False.

These fact-checks have been edited for print. Read the full versions at politifact.com/florida.

The statement

"20 million people could lose their current coverage" … "including our senior citizens who are on Medicare."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a TV ad

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Pants on Fire
We found no evidence that Medicare beneficiaries will lose coverage under the health care law, and the ad's evidence points to one cherry-picked statistic that applies to employer-provided insurance, not Medicare. We rate the statement Pants on Fire!

The statement

"Seniors will see $500 billion in Medicare cuts to fund Obamacare."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a TV ad

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly False
Medicare spending is still set to increase, just not at as high a rate as originally anticipated. The difference, about $500 billion, is being used to help fund other provisions in the new health care law. We rate this claim Mostly False.

PolitiFact: Chamber Medicare claims twist the truth 05/20/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012 1:03pm]

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