Are Republicans looking to get rid of Medicare and Social Security?
Did President Biden himself recently cut $280 billion in Medicare?
These viral claims – from Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) and Biden himself – are highly misleading. They’re also a good example of how different sides hold different “truths,” and how fact checkers can be biased. Here’s why.
Biden Misleads on GOP’s Plans for Spending Cuts
In his State of the Union address, Biden said “Some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset.”
If you ask Biden and other Democrats, they’ll likely tell you it’s true. Republicans would likely say it’s false.
The “sunset” term Biden used probably comes from a proposal by Sen. Scott stating, “all federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”
That plan doesn’t specifically mention Medicare or Social Security, though they’d be included. Others, like Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WY), have specifically called for Medicare and Social Security to be subjected to annual budget deliberations, which could lead to cuts.
In reality, there’s no evidence suggesting that Republicans plan to cut Medicare and Social Security. Some support cuts, but party leaders have stated that it’s not on their agenda.
“That’s not a Republican plan. That was the Rick Scott plan,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said recently. “That’s the view of the Speaker of the House as well.”
Biden also said in the address, "Other Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history."
There’s no evidence of that. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said Medicare and Social Security are off the table for possible cuts as part of debt ceiling negotiations.
Fact-checkers across the spectrum drew similar conclusions.
Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) said, “Republican leaders in the House and Senate are not pushing any reforms to Social Security or Medicare currently, nor have they signaled any plans to tackle those issues in the near term,” and Biden “painted a slightly different picture of the GOP view than is reality.”
CNN (Left bias) noted, “The plan itself doesn’t say that,” and “Biden may have created an inaccurate impression, however, by mentioning the sunset proposal during the section of the State of the Union in which he discussed the battle over the debt ceiling. There is no indication that House Republicans are pushing this proposal as part of the current debt ceiling negotiations with the Biden administration.”
Rick Scott Misleads on Medicare Spending Plan
The same CNN piece then continues by mentioning a claim from Sen. Scott that Biden recently cut $280 billion in Medicare.
When speaking last week on CNN, Scott said, “Let’s remember – just, what, a few months ago, all Democrats voted, and Joe Biden signed a bill, to cut $280 billion out of Medicare.”
Scott’s number likely comes from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the Inflation Reduction Act, which estimated that the law could save up to $280 billion for the Medicare program over the next decade.
That estimate represents cost savings, rather than cuts to benefits. Scott’s quote falsely implies the latter.
In coverage of this claim, fact-checkers showed more differences and examples of bias.
CNN highlighted how in the interview, its own anchor Kaitlan Collins “immediately and repeatedly challenged Scott with the facts. Scott refused to budge. But Collins was correct: this claim about Democrats having supposedly cut Medicare is highly deceptive.”
The Washington Examiner published an article about a new ad in which Scott repeats the claim. The outlet described the claim as “referencing a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that would permit Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers, saving the federal government an estimated $280 billion a year without cutting program benefits, according to the Biden administration.”
CNN adds context to Scott’s claim and describes it as false. The Washington Examiner also added context, but stopped short of describing the claim as false or misleading.
False Claims and Needed Context
The blanket claims here are false. Republicans aren’t looking to cut Social Security or Medicare, and Biden didn’t cut $280 million in Medicare.
That said, there are important nuances for each.
If Scott’s plan went through, some Republicans (or any congressional member, for that matter) might oppose reinstating Medicare and Social Security programs at their current levels once they expired. Some already do. But whether action is taken remains to be seen.
And even if Biden’s plan didn’t actually save $280 billion for Medicare, it seems unfair to call that a cut, since Americans would likely receive the same drug benefits they would have otherwise.
Political opponents on specific issues can spin information, hiding the relevant facts in order to inflame or sensationalize the perceived differences between them and their opposition. That’s why it’s important to read fact checks and perspectives from different sides of the political spectrum.
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Henry A. Brechter is the Managing Editor of AllSides. He has a Center bias.
This piece was reviewed by Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias), John Gable, CEO and Co-founder (Lean Right bias), Joseph Ratliff, News Editor (Lean Left bias), and Andrew Weinzierl, Bias Research Manager & Data Journalist (Lean Left bias).
Image Credit: Molly Adams/Flickr