PoliGraph: The 6th District debate

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On Thursday, 6th Congressional District Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and her DFL opponent Jim Graves met in the MPR studios to debate. Their conversation ranged from abortion to the new health care law and the auto bailout.

PoliGraph was on the scene to examine several health care claims made by both candidates.

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 800,000 jobs will be lost because of the president’s health care plan.” – Bachmann

Bachmann makes this claim frequently to underscore her belief that the health care law will cost jobs. She says it comes from the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted the new law would shrink the workforce by about .5 percent – or about 800,000 people.

But does that mean that the health care will “kill” 800,000 jobs? Not exactly.

The CBO assumed that some employers may hire fewer people because of new penalties in the law. But the CBO also assumed that some people may choose to leave their jobs and get insurance through the health care exchanges or through Medicaid, which is expanded through the program.

This claim is misleading.

“Unfortunately, the president said we would all realize about $2,500 a year savings on our health insurance premiums if his plan passed. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out to be true. We’re seeing an increase of $2,100 to $2,200 a year.” – Bachmann

Bachmann also argues that the new health care law was meant to reduce premiums, but that hasn’t been the case.

It’s true that President Obama promised premiums would go down and they’ve actually gone up. The average private family plan has increased by about $2,000 since 2010, the year the law was put on the books.

But overall, Bachmann’s claim is misleading. Most of the new health care law won’t kick in until 2014, so it’s difficult to say whether it’s had an effect on premiums one way or another. Further, health care experts say that premiums have long been on the rise, largely because health care is simply expensive.

“We’ve almost got $1 billion in refunds to people in the state of Minnesota this year because of the act.” – Graves

Graves quickly disagreed with Bachmann, saying that the health care law has actually put money in people’s pockets.

In fact, insurance companies are doling out about $1 billion in rebates to 12.8 million policyholders because a new rule in the law prevents them from spending more than 20 percent of premiums on salaries, marketing and boosting profit.

But Graves is wrong that $1 billion will be going to Minnesotans. Only $9 million will be sent back to more than 123,000 policyholders here. His campaign said he misspoke during the debate.

“Employers say the number reason they aren’t hiring is because of the president’s health care plan.” – Bachmann

Bachmann is citing a UBS Investment Research report that says the new health care law is “arguably” the top reason employers aren’t hiring; it doesn’t rely on a survey of businesses, and lists 10 other reasons, ranging from the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts to environmental regulation, that are preventing hiring.

PoliGraph has previously ruled this claim is false because economists on both sides of the aisle say that, while new penalties for not offering health insurance and uncertainty surrounding the new law may be reasons some employers aren’t hiring, most are concerned about lagging consumer demand and general economic uncertainty.

“We have consistently the lowest premiums for malpractice insurance in the country.” – Graves

Graves believes that medical malpractice rules should be reformed, too. But if they are, he wants them to look more like Minnesota’s rules because they have the effect of keeping insurance premiums low and frivolous cases out of court.

It’s true that Minnesota has very low medical malpractice premiums rates compared to other states, said Chris Messerly who is an attorney with Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi and one of the leading medical malpractice authorities in the state.

That’s largely because cases need to be evaluated and approved by two third-party experts before the case can come to court, which is unusual compared to many states, Messerly said.

“In other words, there can be no frivolous claims in the state of Minnesota, and that’s been true since 1986,” he said.

SOURCES

The Daily Circuit, 6th Congressional District debate, Nov. 1, 2012

YouTube, CBO confirms Health Care Law Destroys Jobs, accessed Nov. 1, 2012

Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Bachmann claim on health care law ignores key information, by Catharine Richert, June 15, 2011

Minnesota Public Radio, PoliGraph: Checking Bachmann’s debate claims, by Catharine Richert, Sept. 23, 2011

UBS Investment Research, Great Suppression II, Sept. 2011

Kaiser Family Foundation, Employer Health Benefits 2012

Minnesota Public Radio News, PoliGraph: Bachmann’s health care claim misleading, by Catharine Richert, July 13, 2012

The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Insurers sending out rebate checks, by Jackie Crosby, July 23, 2012

Healthcare.gov, information about insurance rebates, accessed Nov. 1, 2012

Interview, Chris Messerly, Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi, Nov. 1, 2012

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