Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact: Testing Medicare claims in Bill Young-Jessica Ehrlich House race

Pinellas County is a hotbed for "Mediscare" politics.

In Congressional District 13, 22 percent of residents are seniors, and dueling TV ads are echoing the messages of the national parties.

The common theme: Our candidate wants to save Medicare, and the other person wants to hurt it.

An ad from Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young says he fought on behalf of seniors and "opposed $716 billion cut to Medicare."

An ad from his Democratic challenger, attorney Jessica Ehrlich, says Young voted "twice for the (Paul) Ryan budget that ends the current Medicare system."

Both sides agree Medicare spending is growing too fast and needs to be slowed. But both distort the other's plan for doing it.

"It's an emotional issue," said Gail Wilensky, who oversaw Medicare under President George H.W. Bush and is a senior fellow at the international health foundation Project HOPE. "If there's no truth to either side, it would be an easy story."

• • •

Ehrlich's ad emphasizes just how long Young, 81, has been in Washington. "Before the Tampa Bay Bucs, Nixon was president, disco was on the rise, and Bill Young was in Congress," it says.

Enter Ehrlich, 38: "Bill Young is a nice man, but after 42 years in Congress he's lost touch. Why else would he vote twice for the Ryan budget that ends the current Medicare system? Seniors pay thousands more each year, and the wealthy get more tax cuts."

Without question, the budget blueprint of Mitt Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would substantially change Medicare. Ryan would leave Medicare in its current form for people 55 and older. Most attacks from Democrats, including Ehrlich's, omit this important detail.

It's a different story for future beneficiaries, who would receive a voucherlike government subsidy to buy their own plans.

"That is a completely different system than the one that we currently have," Ehrlich said in an interview.

Ryan's original plan from 2011 privatized Medicare completely. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated it would cost seniors $6,400 in extra health care costs. Ryan responded to criticism about that and included a traditional Medicare plan in his most recent plan.

"It's really hard to say traditional Medicare is being ended as we know it, except in the sense that it is no longer going to be an open-ended entitlement," Wilensky said, "and Republicans and Democrats have effectively ended that."

So, yes, Young voted for Ryan's previous budget proposals in 2011 and 2012. The most recent plan reshapes how Medicare would work, but seniors would still receive government assistance to buy health insurance — including a traditional Medicare plan.

We rate her claim Half True.

• • •

In Young's senior-centric ad, a cast of older people and former Gov. Jeb Bush praise Young as the champion for Florida seniors in Congress. "Young opposed $716 billion cut to Medicare," bold text says.

Below that text is a citation for the 2010 vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the national health care law that Young voted against.

Does that vote mean Young also rejected "the $716 billion cut"?

This attack line is a viral one in the political world, used by Mitt Romney against President Barack Obama and Rep. Connie Mack IV against Sen. Bill Nelson.

Obama did not propose a specific reduction of Medicare's budget, so it's not a "cut" in the traditional sense. Rather, the law made changes to slow the growth of Medicare costs. These changes primarily affected insurance companies and hospitals — not beneficiaries.

The government, for example, will pay hospitals less if they have too many readmissions or fail to meet new benchmarks for care. It will also reduce payments to insurers that offer Medicare Advantage. Those plans have cost the government more than traditional Medicare; the health law curtails the extra payments.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined in 2011 that the health care law would reduce Medicare outlays by $507 billion between 2012 and 2021. In more recent estimate released this year, the CBO looked at the years 2013 to 2022 and found reductions of $716 billion.

It's worth pointing out Young could not have known he was specifically voting against $716 billion in Medicare "cuts," as that had yet not been tabulated.

For leaving out all those details, we rate Young's claim Half True as well.

PolitiFact Florida is partnering with 10 News for the 2012 election. See video fact-checks and read longer versions of these fact-checks at

The statement

Says he "opposed $716 billion cut to Medicare."

C.W. Bill Young, in a television ad

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Half True
Young voted against the 2010 health care law, which reduces payments over 10 years to hospitals and private insurers. The specific amount, $716 billion, is an estimate came two years after the vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans have their own plan for reducing future Medicare spending.

The statement

Says Bill Young "voted twice for the Ryan budget that ends the current Medicare system."

Jessica Ehrlich, in a television ad

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Half True
Young did vote in favor of two budgets that support a significant re-structuring of Medicare for future beneficiaries. The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details. So we rate it Half True.

PolitiFact: Testing Medicare claims in Bill Young-Jessica Ehrlich House race 11/01/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 2, 2012 11:55am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  2. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  3. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  4. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.
  5. College World Series title puts Florida Gators in elite company


    The Florida Gators put themselves in rare company with Tuesday night's College World Series national championship victory.

    Florida ace and Tampa native Alex Faedo (21) lets loose with his teammates after they win the Gators’ first baseball national title.