Friday, September 7, 2012

The H-Bomb of this Election

From former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention:
But it gets worse. They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming decade. Of course, that will hurt poor kids, but that's not all. Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for seniors and on people with disabilities, including kids from middle class families, with special needs like, Down syndrome or autism. I don't know how those families are going to deal with it. We can't let it happen.
David Frum, former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says, "The nursing home argument is the H-bomb of this election."

After the jump, how H-bombs are not precision weapons.

In a fact check of Clinton's claim about Medicaid spending, The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff judges Clinton's claim "false." According to Kliff, seniors eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid account for 39 percent of Medicaid expenditures, not two thirds, and certainly not two thirds just for nursing home care. But Clinton added "... and on people with disabilities," which Kliff does not account for.

Politico does account for those other groups and judges Clinton's claim to be "True. That's because those groups cost more than healthy kids. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, they're only a quarter of the Medicaid population -- but they do account for two-thirds of the costs."

So, two different fact checkers come up with two different answers: true and false. Clinton's point would have been just as alarming if he had said "two fifths" instead of "two thirds," or just "a significant share." The exact amount is less important than the fact that Medicaid cuts are going to seriously hurt senior citizens and kids. That should be alarming enough for most Americans. And I can't see the GOP making too much hay from this, even if the number isn't exactly two thirds. Is Mitt Romney going to start advertising, "We didn't really cut granny's nursing home care by two-thirds. Our cuts are less than that."?

So, is this a blog article about a threat to health care and nursing home care for the sick and elderly or is it about fact checking Bill Clinton? The Democrats want it to be about the former. The GOP may want it to be about the latter. The sick and elderly are at risk of being caught in the middle. That's the way political attacks work. There's a lot of collateral damage as well. H-bombs are not precision weapons.

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