PoliGraph: Bachmann’s Romney defense ignores details

In an appearance on Meet the Press last weekend, Rep. Michele Bachmann did something that may have seemed unusual: she praised and defended Mitt Romney, her former rival for the GOP presidential nomination.

Bachmann dropped out of the race in January, after coming in last in the Iowa caucuses. But she’s said she would get behind the eventual nominee.

During an exchange with another guest Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, Bachmann inched closer toward officially throwing her weight behind Romney, who has more delegates than the other contenders.

“Mitt Romney would like to privatize Medicare and Medicaid,” Gillibrand said.

“These are patently false statements that are being made about Mitt Romney,” Bachmann interjected. “He has not come out and said he’s going to do what the Senator is stating.”

As it turns out, neither Bachmann nor Gillibrand has the whole story.

The Evidence

Romney wants to give the elderly the option of staying in Medicare or taking financial support from the government to help buy private health care coverage. If Romney implements this plan as president, he’s promised it won’t apply to those who are 55 and older.

Last November, the Romney campaign told the Wall Street Journal that creating competition among private plans could make them a cheaper alternative to Medicare. Eventually, the elderly may favor private plans over the government option as a result.

Critics say Romney’s approach would affectively end Medicare because government subsidies wouldn’t keep up with the rising cost of care.

On Medicaid, the federal government currently pays for a percentage of the states’ expenses. Poorer states get more federal dollars and wealthier states get fewer.

Romney has proposed slowing Medicaid spending to eventually save $200 billion annually. The federal government would still help pay for the program by giving states block grants.

Romney hasn’t provided too many details about his Medicaid plan, but it mirrors one put together by Republican Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office wrote in 2011 that states would surely have more flexibility in how they spend dollars under such a plan, and may achieve greater efficiencies as a result.

“Even with additional flexibility, however, the large projected reduction in payments would probably require states to decrease payments to Medicaid providers, reduce eligibility for Medicaid, provide less extensive coverage to beneficiaries, or pay more themselves than would be the case under current law,” the CBO report states.

The Verdict

Gillibrand’s statement goes too far, but Bachmann’s claim doesn’t go far enough.

To say that Romney has no plan to privatize Medicare is misleading. He wants to partially privatize the program.

And while Bachmann is right that Romney doesn’t have plans to privatize Medicaid, she leaves out the fact that turning it into a block-grant program could spell big changes in benefits and coverage.

On balance, Bachmann’s claim is misleading.


The Washington Post, On Romney’s Medicare plan, a devil in the details, by Sarah Kiff, Nov. 4, 2011

The Wall Street Journal, Romney Proposes Voucher Option for Medicare Plan, By Jonathan Weismann and Patrick O’Connor, Nov. 5, 2011

MittRomney.com, Medicare, accessed April 17, 2012

MittRomney.com, Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth, accessed April 17, 2012

Medicaid.gov, Financing and Reimbursement, accessed April 17, 2012

Congressional Budget Office, Long-Term Analysis of a Budget Proposal by Chairman Ryan, April 5, 2011

E-mail exchange, Andrea Saul, spokeswoman, Mitt Romney for President, April 17, 2012

  • I was hoping for someone else (Paul Ryan maybe), but I’ll take Romney over Obama any day. We need to start growing the employment base instead of downsizing the number employed and claiming “only” an 8% unemployment figure (the actual rate is much higher), and Romney will lead us in that direction. Hopefully the country has learned its lesson for at least a couple of generations, which is not to elect radical college instructors to high office. But I’m not taking bets.