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i9 Fact Checker: Republican ad goes after Biden’s support for a public option health care plan

Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 5:58 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A new ad from the Republican Party and President Trump is critical of a public option for health care. That would give people the option to buy into a government-run health care plan. It’s a plan Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Theresa Greenfield and several other Democrats support.

Source: This ad is called “Noise” from the Republican National Committee and the Trump Campaign.

Claim #1: Their plan could lead to hospitals being closed

Analysis: This ad cites a New York Times article discussing the consequences of Medicare-For-All on hospitals.

But Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t support Medicare-for-all rather a public option.

A public option would operate like Medicare, where private insurance and employer given insurance would still exist. But, people would have the option to buy into a government-run plan as well.

It’s worth noting another study specifically looked at the effects of a public option and found it would close 52 rural hospitals. It takes a lot of assumptions to get to that conclusion, like Medicare reimbursement rates not changing.

Another study from the same group found 17 rural hospitals are already facing a high risk of closing without any public option or Medicare-for-All.

Conclusion: The claim here is based on Medicare-for-all. But Biden does not support that, opting instead for a Public Option plan. But both plans could cause hospitals to close. But because the ad misrepresents Biden’s position, it gets a ‘B’.

Claim #2: Put Medicare Coverage at Risk

Analysis: The group cites a policy paper from the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation. The paper doesn’t directly say a public option would put Medicare coverage at risk, but did argue that any public option would lead to a single-payer run system like Medicare-For-All.

It also said that because people on Medicare pay lower prices, it has put other health services in their area at risk. But, health locations closing is different than changing medicare coverage directly.

That would also happen if the Medicare payment rates aren’t raised. It’s also important that hospitals are already at risk of closing.

A New York Times article, cited in another Republican ad, had one expert who said linking a public option to medicare could cause some hospitals and doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients.

That article from the Times notes those effects of the public option are tied to the specifics and intricacies of the plan, like if it’s linked to Medicare or not.

Conclusion: The public option doesn’t directly put Medicare coverage at risk. It could potentially close hospitals or change the doctor of your choice, depending on how it’s structured. But that would impact access, not coverage. That’s why this gets a D.

Claim #3: “And give benefits to illegal immigrants.”

Analysis: The group is using this interview back in 2019 on Joe Biden’s bus tour where he said undocumented immigrants will be able to buy into his public option like anybody else.

Biden said this at one of the first democratic debates as well. The Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce Recommendations also gives undocumented immigrants the opportunity to receive healthcare insurance.

“To ensure that people living and working across the country have health care access, the Task Force recommends extending Affordable Care Act coverage to DACA recipients, allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase unsubsidized coverage in the ACA marketplaces.”

It’s important to note those health care plans would be unsubsidized from taxpayer dollars.

Conclusion: Joe Biden’s plan would give undocumented immigrants the benefit of participating in the public option and ACA marketplace if they choose. But, those aren’t benefits subsidized by tax dollars. That’s why we’re giving this claim a B.

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