PolitiFact: New Health Care Act Claims; Sarah Palin's Climate Talks Photo

Jun 18, 2017
Originally published on June 16, 2017 9:00 am

The claims are flying fast and furious around the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. A version proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives would replace it with the American Health Care Act.

Now, one Democrat running for Governor, Orlando businessman Chris King, is claiming the plan would be a huge burden on senior citizens.

"The only thing as reckless and disappointing as the 800 percent premium increases Florida seniors will face under Trumpcare is Rick Scott and Adam Putnam's silence on the issue," King said in a May 25 press release that describes the bill as hiking premiums for low-income seniors.

Putnam is running for governor, and Scott is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling:

CBO researchers considered the effect of the bill on a few different age brackets, including consumers who are 64 years old and not yet on Medicare.

The May 24 report compares the average amount consumers who are 64 years old would spend in premiums under the current Affordable Care Act with what they would pay under the House legislation in 2026.

As written, the House bill would create two choose-your-own-adventure scenarios for states that decide to obtain waivers to certain "essential health benefits" under current law. Either scenario, CBO found, means steep increases for older, poorer Americans than under current law.

Here’s what the estimates say about average insurance costs for a person 64 years old who earns $26,500 a year in 2026:

• Under the Affordable Care Act, that person would pay a net of $1,700 in premium costs for an individual market plan after subsidies. (A 21-year-old and 40-year-old would pay the same amount.)

• That net premium rises to $16,100 for states not requesting waivers to certain "essential health benefits" under current law. That’s an increase of about 847 percent.

• For states that obtain those waivers, the premium rises to $13,600, or a 700 percent increase.

Due to those rising costs for low-income older Americans, the CBO predicted that many will lose insurance.

"Although the agencies expect that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured broadly, the increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income — particularly people between 50 and 64 years old with income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level," the report states.

The reason that low-income consumers who are 64 would face such a massive hike in premiums is due to what happens to age rating and tax credit subsidies in the House legislation.

"The changes to the subsidies and age bands all explicitly increase net premiums for seniors. That piece of the CBO score isn’t really up for debate," said Chris Sloan at Avalere Health consulting.

Under current law, insurance companies can charge older adults up to three times as much as younger people based on their age. The House bill increases the ratio to five times as much starting in 2018.

Also under the current Affordable Care Act, tax credits are tied to income, so low-income older Americans receive large tax credits.

Subsidies under the House bill, however, are based on age rather than income. The credits also don’t vary based on the cost of insurance in a person’s area.

King was referring to a report that analyzed premium costs for seniors who are 64 and therefore not yet on Medicare. The report showed that average premiums for a 64-year-old earning $26,500 will rise dramatically if the bill becomes law — between 700 and 847 percent depending on a state’s choices. That puts low-income, older Americans in a disproportionately affected position compared to other age and income groups.

But the King said seniors, which certainly would include people 65 and older. Most of those people are covered by Medicare. The report does not apply to them.

King’s statement is partially accurate but missing needed context, we rate this claim Half True.

(The Senate has not released its version of the health care bill, which could result in a drastically different situation for older Americans. Trump officials have talked about making other legislative and regulatory changes that they say would drive down the cost of health insurance.)

Next up:  After President Donald Trump said he'd pull out of the Paris Climate Treaty, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote on her Facebook page:

"Don’t be fooled! The Paris climate accord is a scam," stated the headline at the top of Palin’s Facebook post June 6, 2017. (By June 7, the Facebook meme was no longer available but PolitiFact had taken a screenshot of her post, which had been shared at least 8,000 times.)

Beneath the headline is a photo of an unidentified group of mostly men cheering. The Facebook post doesn’t identify the people in the photo, but they are Florida House members at the state Capitol in Tallahassee.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's check on that post: 

PolitiFact fact-checked Palin’s photo as part of our effort to debunk fake news on Facebook.

Our efforts to reach a spokesperson for Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, were unsuccessful. (Palin’s post was previously debunked by other news outlets including the Miami Herald, a partner along with the Tampa Bay Times in PolitiFact Florida, and Politico.)

 

The photo is actually from the 2011 Florida legislative session.

We interviewed four of the Republican politicians in the photo: state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and former House members Will Weatherford, a former speaker from Wesley Chapel; Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary, and Rachel Burgin of Riverview. We also interviewed a Democrat in the photo: Jeff Clemens, now a state senator of Lake Worth. Not all of the legislators recalled the particulars of the photo, but all of them said that their cheers had nothing to do with the Paris climate accord -- which was signed years later -- or about climate change.

Plakon directed us to search the Florida House website to show the real reason behind the cheering. The website showed that the photo was taken by House photographer Mark Foley. The cutline states: "From the left, Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, signaled that session was coming to a close as members celebrate on the House floor, May 7, 2011."


Palin posted a viral image that purportedly shows a group of people clapping as a result of the Paris agreement, presumably about the billions they will earn. Except, it’s not that at all. The photo is of Florida lawmakers elated at the long-awaited close of the 2011 legislative session.

The text and photo pairing is inaccurate. We rate it False.

 

 

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