The Herald-Leader will routinely check the accuracy of statements made by candidates and their surrogates leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
The statement: "Andy Barr wants to privatize Medicare. I hear it will raise costs for seniors to six to seven thousand dollars more a year to cut taxes to help the wealthy."
— Todd Gardner of Carlisle in a campaign ad for U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles
The ruling: Half True
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The facts: Barr, a Lexington lawyer, is Chandler's Republican challenger for the second consecutive election. In June 2011, while announcing his candidacy, Barr told Politico that he would have voted two months earlier for a House budget plan sponsored by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chairman of the House Budget Committee and now the GOP vice presidential candidate.
Ryan's plan called for $5 trillion in federal spending reductions over the coming decade, including a shift for future Medicare enrollees into a voucher-style program that would allow seniors to purchase coverage from a choice of regulated private plans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that, by the year 2030, Ryan's plan would require a typical 65-year-old to pay 68 percent of the cost of her Medicare-covered health services as compared to 25 percent under the current system.
Explaining his support for Ryan's plan, Barr told Politico: "I believe that we have got to be adults in the discussion about entitlement reform. And that means preserving our commitment to current seniors, no question. But for future generations, what we have to consider is that the politicians in Washington who put their head in the sand and refuse to do anything are the greatest threat to the long-term solvency of Medicare."
Ryan's plan — which stalled after passing the House — also would have cut the highest individual and corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.
On Wednesday, the Barr campaign disputed Chandler's ad.
Barr said he now supports a more recent bipartisan Medicare reform plan by Ryan and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would preserve traditional Medicare coverage as one option for future enrollees.
"Andy Barr believes that the bipartisan Ryan-Wyden plan constitutes a significant improvement over the original proposal because it preserves an option to choose traditional Medicare and it pegs the premium support seniors will receive to the real cost of the insurance plans they will consider," said Barr spokesman David Host in a written statement.
In 2010, Campaign Watchdog challenged the accuracy of two Chandler ads that sought to link Barr to Ryan's cost-cutting proposals for Medicare and Social Security. At that time, other than a vague comment in a talk-radio interview, Barr had not endorsed Ryan's ideas, and in fact, he specifically opposed privatizing Medicare and Social Security on the campaign trail.
Since then, Barr has endorsed two different proposals — Ryan's conservative budget plan of April 2011 and the more moderate Wyden-Ryan Medicare plan of December 2011.
Campaign Watchdog finds Chandler’s ad to be Half True. Barr endorsed Ryan’s earlier plan and has never retracted his support for it. The ad is not entirely true because it leaves the impression that Ryan’s earlier plan would have privatized Medicare for today’s seniors, rather than clarifying that privatization would have been limited to people age 54 and younger.