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Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Sorting out the truth of attack ad on Alex Sink and Obamacare

Democratic candidate for U.S. House Alex Sink is attacked in a Republican TV ad about Obamacare.

Times files (2011)

Democratic candidate for U.S. House Alex Sink is attacked in a Republican TV ad about Obamacare.

A new ad from national Republicans in the special election to replace the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young features something old, something new, something borrowed, but not much that is true.

The National Republican Congressional Committee unveiled the TV ad Wednesday — a 30-second attack on Democrat Alex Sink's support of President Barack Obama's health care law.

"Alex Sink's loyalty is to them, not Florida. Why else would she continue to support Obamacare?" the ad says, while flashing a picture of Sink, Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "Three hundred thousand Floridians will lose their current health plans, $700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors. And now nonpartisan government analysts say Obamacare will cost our economy up to 2.5 million jobs."

The special election is March 11. Sink supports the law and wants to see it improved; Republican David Jolly opposes it.

We checked all three claims made by the NRCC in the ad.

The first, about 300,000 Floridians losing insurance, is "borrowed" from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who said in October that "300,000 people are going to lose their individual coverage because of Obamacare. Now those people next year, they don't have health insurance." We ruled his claim Mostly False.

The NRCC is more careful with wording. The group says 300,000 Floridians will lose their "current health plans," but doesn't claim that those individuals will be without insurance next year (it's illegal and there's a penalty for not having insurance). But there's still quite a bit of context missing.

The 300,000 refers to the number of policyholders Florida Blue identified as having plans that did not meet the law's minimum coverage standards and would be canceled.

It's true Florida Blue will phase out those policies (though the Obama administration delayed that requirement by a year). But even then, Florida Blue said it is working with customers to ensure they find new policies.

Some of those individuals may have already found new coverage on the federal marketplace, and if they make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, they also might have been eligible for a subsidy that makes the coverage cheaper. It's also possible they're paying more, but getting more coverage in return.

It's unclear how many — if any — would no longer have coverage at all.

While the NRCC ad more accurately worded its claim than Rubio's comments, it paints an incomplete picture. We rate it Half True.

The second claim — that Obamacare includes a "$700 billion cut from Medicare for seniors" — is an "old" claim that's been around since 2010.

The Affordable Care Act does take steps to decrease the growth in Medicare outlays. According to the most recent analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the reduction in spending is about $716 billion through 2022.

But those savings are supposed to be achieved without cutting services for seniors. About one-third of the savings come from shrinking Medicare Advantage, a subset of the program that is run by private insurers.

Started under President George W. Bush, Medicare Advantage was supposed to inject competition into the market for senior care, but the plans ended up costing more.

Obamacare also reduces payments for hospitals that don't meet performance benchmarks. This is intended to incentivize health facilities to improve efficiency and quality of care.

Moreover, the preferred spending plan of congressional Republicans assumed the same $716 billion in savings.

The ad is right on the numbers, and there is going to be a reduction in Medicare spending, though calling it a "cut" is a misnomer. We rate the claim Half True.

The last statement in the ad is a "new" attack that "Obamacare will cost our economy up to 2.5 million jobs." It became a talking point among Republicans when the Congressional Budget Office recently released an update on the law's economic impact.

The CBO report said Obamacare will result in a "decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024."

Many Republicans reacted as though this supported their claims that Obamacare will be a job-killer. But there's a big difference between a decline in full-time equivalent workers and employers cutting jobs as a result of the law.

Positions aren't going to be eliminated. Instead, the CBO report says improved access to insurance on the individual market and new subsidies to help pay for it will encourage some Americans to not work as much.

Also, it's not that 2.5 million workers will stop working, but the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers. That means there will be some mix of employees scaling back their hours, leaving a second part-time job or exiting the workforce entirely.

Those distinctions are critical to understanding the law's impact on the labor markets. As a result, we rate the claim Mostly False.

Edited for print. Read the full rulings at

PolitiFact: Sorting out the truth of attack ad on Alex Sink and Obamacare 02/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 10:42pm]
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