Truth Test: Dems fire back with old 'Medi-scare' claims

KUSA - Spooking seniors over Medicare is apparently back in style.

Democrats started running a political ad in Colorado on Monday that attacks Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), the presumptive nominee to challenge Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado).

9NEWS will hold those who run political ads on our networks accountable for what they say. You can find the entire collection of Truth Tests here: To learn more about how political ads and fact-checking work on 9NEWS, please read these answers to our common questions and comments.

This ad is a response to a recent ad recently by launched by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which 9NEWS also recently tested.

The retort comes from the Senate Majority PAC, a group trying to keep Democrats like Sen. Udall in office.

The ad starts by trying to get you to think about who's targeting Udall.

CLAIM: "Those behind the attacks? Insurance companies."

VERDICT: Misleading.

The way the ad jumps from the AFP ad to this claim, you'd think they had proof insurance companies were behind that negative ad on Obamacare.

But they don't.

Asked to justify the claim, Senate Majority PAC can prove a connection between insurance companies and the RNC.

The RNC has a different ad running online and on Spanish TV in Colorado because of Udall's race, but it has a decidedly positive tone.

This insurance company claim is important, because it's meant to tee up a broader point about healthcare in the ad.

CLAIM: The attacks are also supported by "out-of-state billionaires, spending a million supporting [radical] Cory Gardner."

VERDICT: The word "radical" on screen is opinion. The amount of the AFP ad buy and support from billionaires is true.

The billionaires in this case are the Koch brothers, wealthy conservative businessmen.

They started and supported Americans for Prosperity, though we don't know their share of the donations because AFP does not disclose its donors.

AFP tells 9NEWS it purchased about $1 million in advertising this month in Colorado to spread its message.

CLAIM: "Gardner would end Medicare's guarantee, giving billions in profits to insurance companies, forcing seniors to pay $6,000 more a year."

VERDICT: All these claims need context.

These claims all badly need context, because they only make sense talking about the 2011 version of the "Ryan plan," a spending proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin,) remembered by most people as Mitt Romney's 2012 running mate.

The 2011 version of the Ryan plan would have changed Medicare drastically, converting it to a system that gave seniors subsidies to buy private insurance.

But it was only about future seniors. Everybody 55 and older would have been grandfathered in on traditional Medicare.

Cory Gardner supported that plan.

However, Gardner also supported more recent versions of the Ryan plan, which keep traditional Medicare as an option, while adding a private option as well.

The claim about "forcing seniors to pay $6,000 more a year" relies on a CBO estimate of the 2011 Ryan plan. It doesn't apply to newer versions of the Ryan plan that keep a traditional Medicare option, though the CBO said under those later plans seniors could pay more in the future.

In the proper context, "ending Medicare's guarantee" is an opinion to describe what the 2011 Ryan plan would do, and "billions in profits to insurance companies" is a fair claim pointing to an analysis of the 2011 Ryan plan.

BOTTOM LINE: This ad brings up fair points from Gardner's record. If you're not comfortable with some degree of privatizing Medicare, it's worth knowing Gardner's background on the issue.

However, it also oversimplifies his record with the goal of scaring seniors.

As we've explained in Truth Tests as far back as the 2012 Presidential race, that tactic is flawed because the Ryan plans allow today's seniors to stay on traditional Medicare, only making changes to benefits for future seniors.


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