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Pinocchioizing the Medicare debate

July 01, 2013
9:55 am

Even if we can’t find a way to eliminate ‘Mediscare’ political tactics altogether, shouldn’t we be able to at least limit retiree-scaring strategies to election years?

This weekend, Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s fact checker, pointed out that even odd-numbered years are open season for frightening seniors with outrageously misleading hyperbole.  Kessler spotlighted a television ad sponsored by two political action committees, Patriot Majority USA and Senate Majority PAC, aimed at Congressman Tom Cotton (R-AR).  The video accuses Cotton of supporting a plan that would “essentially end Medicare” and cost some seniors more than $6000 a year.

This ad is, of course, absolute nonsense that has been repeated — and discredited — many times before.  Kessler, in fact, gave it his highest (or is it lowest) rating of “four pinocchios,” meaning it is highly deceptive messaging.

The two PAC groups are tying Cotton to an early iteration, since revised, of Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare reform plan.  That plan, of course, wouldn’t end Medicare, but rather open the program up to participation by private health plans.  And since the early Ryan version that the ad is referencing, the proposal has been revised to give seniors the option of remaining in conventional fee-for-service Medicare instead of opting for the private choice-and-competition plan.

Patriot Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC know all of this, of course, but having a legitimate and necessary debate over Medicare’s future takes a back seat to using the program as a cudgel to pound down a political opponent’s approval numbers.

I don’t know if Congressman Cotton will be hurt by this ad but, regardless, he isn’t among the biggest losers here.  Those would be the Arkansas voters who are being led to believe something that simply isn’t true, and current and future Medicare beneficiaries who need and deserve a genuine discussion over how to improve and sustain the program.

Mediscare tactics are deplorable enough in election years, but can’t we at least have one year out of every two in which we can have an honest conversation about the issue?

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