Money and Lies at the Heart of Republican Strategy in 2010

60 Plus Association Mailing

More disinformation than information has circled around President Obama’s healthcare reform bill thanks to the Republicans. These lies take many forms, from chain emails, YouTube videos, and of course, the mouths of Republican politicians and pundits. They delegitimize it by calling it, derisively, “Obamacare” in an effort to make it seem absurd. I mean, who would want health insurance, right? You would think it was the craziest idea in the world.

One of the rumors currently making the rounds – I know because my son’s nurse brought it up – is physician reimbursement. The story is that thanks to Obamacare, physicians will receive less medicare reimbursement, that this will be a disaster for seniors, that doctors will even drop their patients rather than be adequately compensated for their work.

This particular lie really took off in September of this year, leading up to the midterm elections. A conservative group, the 60 Plus Association (a supposedly non-partisan “seniors advocacy group”), attacked sixteen Democrats. Many of these Democrats were engaged in tight House races – the House Republicans ended up in control of. If you think Republicans won because dirty it’s because, well…the Republicans won dirty. They have been buying elections for over a century and they see no reason to drop a successful strategy.

As reported, “$5 million – from donors whose identities it doesn’t have to disclose – to run the ads saying the lawmakers “betrayed” their constituents by voting for the health care overhaul signed into law earlier this year.”

According to

  • Some of the ads say that the law means “seniors could lose their doctors” or that it “threatens seniors’ ability to keep their own doctor.” But what the ads are talking about here has nothing to do with the new health care law. Some doctors have said they may stop accepting Medicare patients because of scheduled payment cuts set in motion by a 1997 law, cuts that are unaffected by the new statute.
  • All of the ads say that the new law cuts $500 billion from Medicare. It’s true that the law would restrain future growth of the program, but this isn’t cutting from existing spending. And the amount is spread over 10 years, totaling about 7 percent of what Medicare was projected to cost over that decade.
  • Many of the ads feature seniors saying the law will “hurt the quality of our care.” But the law specifically forbids cuts in the basic package of Medicare benefits, and even adds some new features, such as wellness checkups. It also closes the “doughnut hole” gap in the prescription drug benefit.

But if any physicians drop their patients, it won’t be because of “Obamacare.” It will be because of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. analyzes the lie in detail (emphasis mine):

Although the ads cite an April report from the office of the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as support for this claim, that report actually discusses cuts the law makes in payments to other providers, such as hospitals and nursing homes – not doctors. The required cuts could make it difficult for some such providers to stay in business, the report says, “possibly jeopardizing access to care” from those institutions for seniors.

But that report and another CMS document issued in August also note that Congress has a habit of negating such cuts. In fact, the August report says with respect to the legislated payment cuts to hospitals and other such non-physician providers, “Congress is very likely to legislatively override or otherwise modify the reductions in the future to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries continue to have access to health care services.”

After all, the report notes, look what lawmakers have done to scheduled cuts to doctors’ pay that were mandated by the 1997 law: “Congress has overridden all of the scheduled reductions [for physicians] from 2003 to November 2010,” the report says. And for the hospitals and other providers covered by the new law: “Congress would presumably act to adjust Medicare payment rates as necessary” before the providers withdrew from the program.

“But,” asked the Washington Post, “how much did the health-care law passed this year have to do with Republicans winning back the House and gaining six seats in the Senate?” Their analysis provided several answers, from “yes” to “no” based on exit data and on the opinions of Democratic and Republican strategists

Did it work? Let’s take a look. Here are the folks who were targeted:

  • Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania; LOST
  • Rep. Chris Carney, Pennsylvania; LOST
  • Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, Pennsylvania; LOST
  • Tim Bishop, New York; IN RECOUNT
  • Scott Murphy, New York; LOST
  • Alan Grayson, Florida; LOST
  • Allen Boyd, Florida; LOST
  • Suzanne Kosmas, Florida; LOST
  • Steve Kagen, Wisconsin; LOST
  • Ron Kind, Wisconsin; WON
  • John Boccieri in Ohio; LOST
  • Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona; LOST
  • Harry Mitchell, Arizona; LOST
  • Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona; WON
  • Joe Donnelly in Indiana; WON
  • Roy Herron, Tennessee; LOST

That’s sixteen candidates; only three of them have won – 18% if Tim Bishop loses. If Tim Bishop wins, 25%. The Republicans will have won 75% of races in which they made allegations of betrayal against Democratic candidates based on healthcare reform. It seems, in these races at least, healthcare reform may have been an issue.

The Republicans know they can’t win on the issues; they have to lie on the issues. They have to disenfranchise voting blocks who will present opposition to them. They have to buy elections by outspending – sometimes obscenely – Democratic candidates. Sharron Angle, for example, spent $97 per vote. Linda McMahan (wife of WWE owner Vince McMahon) spent $95 per vote and Meg Whitman in California spent $57 per vote (Linda McMahan spent an obscene $454 per vote in successful her primary race, Meg Whitman a more modest $64/vote). All three of them lost, ironically, which shows that even money has limitations when a candidate is obviously unfit.

It is when the money is spent on lies and disinformation that true damage is done, as in these sixteen races, and about this issue, healthcare reform. It’s a pity the Republicans won’t deal with the issues, either in political campaigning or when it’s over, but simply tell lies, repeating them over and over and spending millions to make sure you hear them, and to cast doubt, even if you don’t believe them. For a party that claims that “throwing money at a problem” won’t make it go away, the Republicans sure do like to throw money at a problem. Even worse for America, all too often, their pockets are deep enough to make it stick.

But do we need campaign finance reform? Nah, just like we don’t need healthcare reform.

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