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A television ad attacking 7th Congressional District challenger Ami Bera is similar to those Republican groups are using in other races.

Ad Watch: Republican ads mislead voters on changes to Medicare

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 - 7:31 am

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have released new television ads attacking Ami Bera, the Democrat challenging Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, in the 7th Congressional District. Both ads emphasize a provision of the federal health care overhaul involving Medicare. Here is the text of the NRCC ad and an analysis by Torey Van Oot of The Bee Capitol Bureau.

Narrator: A doctor should know better. But Ami Bera's a politician now. That's why Bera supports Pelosi's plan to slash over $700 billion from Medicare. It's wrong. Nearly 2 million California seniors could see their benefits cut. The Bera-Pelosi plan puts Medicare decisions in the hands of unelected bureaucrats, risking seniors' access to care even more. Ami Bera: the wrong prescription.

Analysis

The ad is misleading on several counts, and is part of a cookie-cutter ad campaign Republican groups are using against Democratic congressional candidates.

It implies that the changes in the Affordable Care Act would result in diminished benefits for all Medicare beneficiaries, but there is no evidence that would occur.

The "nearly 2 million California seniors" cited in the ad is a reference to the 1.7 million state residents enrolled in Medicare Advantage – a private plan option used by about a quarter of beneficiaries that provides some extras – as of 2011.

The law does not call for seniors' benefits in the advantage program to be "slashed." It calls for reduction in future increases planned for the program – money lawmakers said was padding the insurers' take. The law also reduces annual increases in payments to certain Medicare providers, such as hospitals and home health providers.

Health insurance lobbyists have warned that Medicare Advantage beneficiaries could see higher costs and "coverage disruptions" in the future. But so far, costs have stabilized and enrollment in the program is up.

The ad also overstates Bera's support for the law. Bera has been critical of the Affordable Care Act, voicing concerns that it doesn't do enough to cut down on the cost of care. He said he would have been a "reluctant" vote for the law and has stopped short of calling for a full repeal.

The ad's claim about the "unelected bureaucrats" making Medicare-related decision is a reference to a 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board created under the health care law. Bera said earlier this year he would have joined Republicans in voting to abolish the board, which could mandate cuts to Medicare in the future if costs grow too high.

Finally, the ad ignores the fact that Lungren has supported significant changes in Medicare. He backed a proposal that sought to change the Medicare program from a government-run system to one in which those under age 55 would receive a federal subsidy and buy their own insurance plans.

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