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Does DeSantis want to cut Social Security and Medicare? Here’s what his record shows.

PolitiFact | DeSantis has said he would change Social Security, but only for people currently in their 30s and 40s.
 
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami.
Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NBC News, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami. [ REBECCA BLACKWELL | AP ]
Published Nov. 24, 2023

A Spanish-language ad playing on South Florida radio stations portrays a phone conversation between a daughter and a mother who are lamenting Florida’s high costs of living.

The mom says, “Now your father wants to retire, but we don’t know if he’ll have Social Security.” The daughter asks why.

“The governor, Ron DeSantis, is the reason our costs are going up and he’s doing nothing about it. He even wants to cut Social Security and Medicare,” the mom says. “And now he wants to become president.”

The ad began airing Nov. 8 and comes from DeSantis Watch, a project of the left-leaning research organizations Progress Florida and Florida Watch.

Social Security is a source of monthly income for older Americans who are retired or have reduced their working hours. Most jobs take Social Security taxes out of workers’ paychecks so that the workers can get monthly benefits later in life.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people age 65 and older and for certain younger people with disabilities. There are different parts of Medicare; original Medicare pays for doctor’s visits and hospital stays (beneficiaries generally have copays). Medicare Advantage is a Medicare-approved plan offered by private companies as an alternative to original Medicare for health and drug coverage.

PolitiFact checked DeSantis’ congressional record, his comments as governor and his comments as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The ad contains an element of truth, but ignores critical facts.

As a U.S. representative before becoming governor, DeSantis supported congressional proposals to reduce Social Security and Medicare spending, including by raising the age for full eligibility. But those proposals were symbolic statements of a policy preference; even if passed, the proposals would not have become law.

As a governor and presidential candidate, DeSantis has said he’s open to changing Social Security rules for younger generations, but he’s said he would not change it for current beneficiaries. His current stance on Medicare is not clear.

DeSantis’ congressional record

Anders Croy, Florida Watch and DeSantis Watch’s communications director, directed PolitiFact to DeSantis’ congressional votes in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for three nonbinding budget proposals. These resolutions called for raising the retirement age and slowing future Social Security spending. The House didn’t pass the proposals, but even if it had, they would not have become law.

Croy also noted that in 2017, DeSantis voted for another nonbinding budget resolution, a motion that does not enact a law, that proposed cutting $473 billion to Medicare’s baseline spending over a decade. This provision also needed the approval of additional laws to take effect.

Whether those measures amounted to cuts to the programs is debatable.

Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told PolitiFact in 2018 that whether these resolutions would have led to cuts hinged on the particulars of other proposals that would have to eventually become law.

What’s DeSantis’ current stance on Social Security and Medicare?

The ad says DeSantis “wants” to cut Social Security and Medicare, giving the impression this is his stance as he runs for president.

Although DeSantis has said in interviews and public appearances that the Social Security program needs changes, he has also said he supports keeping it as is for current beneficiaries. He has said he is open to changing eligibility requirements for younger Americans currently in their 30s and 40s.

“When people say that we’re going to somehow cut seniors, that is totally not true,” DeSantis said in July on Fox News. “Talking about making changes for people in their 30s or 40s so that the program’s viable, that’s a much different thing.”

Changes to Social Security, such as raising the retirement age, would most likely mean benefit cuts, said Andrew D. Eschtruth, an associate director at Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research.

If people are promised benefits at a specific age and then, when they become eligible to receive them, the age requirement increases, those people lose the benefits for that expected period, he said.

DeSantis has not specified if or how he would change Medicare.

Our ruling

A DeSantis Watch ad claims that DeSantis “wants to cut Social Security and Medicare.”

As a presidential candidate, DeSantis has not said what he wants to do with Medicare. He has said he favors changing Social Security, although not in a way that affects current beneficiaries.

In Congress, DeSantis supported proposals to reduce Social Security and Medicare spending, including raising the age at which people are fully eligible. This could mean people who thought they would be receiving benefits at a certain age end up waiting longer. Whether that is considered a “cut” is debatable, and those measures were nonbinding, which meant they were motions that didn’t enact a law.

The ad comes as DeSantis runs for president and can give the misleading impression that he’s campaigning on a platform to make broad cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

We rate this claim Mostly False.