Politics & Government

Watchdog: Claim that Barr wants to 'end traditional Medicare' half true

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: "But Andy Barr supports a plan that would end traditional Medicare, raising costs for seniors more than $6,000 a year."

— A recent TV advertisement for Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler's re-election campaign.

The ruling: Half True

The facts: The two major candidates in the race for Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District have inundated the district with a barrage of advertisements about Medicare, the government health program primarily for people age 65 and older.

In his latest salvo, Democratic incumbent Ben Chandler of Versailles is attempting to convince voters that his Republican opponent, Lexington attorney Andy Barr, wants to "end traditional Medicare."

Reality is more complicated.

It's true that Barr told Politico last year that he would have voted in April 2011 for a proposal to shift future Medicare enrollees into a voucher-style program. The bill would not have affected people who were already 55 or over.

Under that plan, proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, now the GOP vice presidential candidate, the government would not pay doctors to treat Medicare beneficiaries. Instead, the government would give people a set amount of money to buy health plans from an approved list of private insurance companies.

Ryan has since unveiled a new plan, which would give future seniors the option of taking the vouchers or sticking with the traditional Medicare program, although those costs would be capped as well. Barr spokesman David Host said in a written statement last month that Barr believes Ryan's latest plan is a "significant improvement over the original proposal."

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the original version of Ryan’s plan would have increased costs for seniors because his vouchers would not keep pace with health care prices. It calculated a $6,400 increase in out-of-pocket health care costs for seniors by 2022.

Ryan's latest version, with the option of remaining in the current program, is so complicated the CBO said it can't predict what might happen.

Campaign Watchdog finds Chandler's claim to be half true. It gives the misleading impression that Barr supports a plan to end Medicare for everyone, including current seniors. It also omits the fact that Barr now supports a plan that would preserve traditional Medicare coverage in some form as one option for future enrollees.