Fact Checker

Fact Checker: Blum largely right that Finkenauer envisions big health care changes

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum speaks during a ground breaking ceremony for the west cargo at The Eastern Iowa Airport in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
U.S. Rep. Rod Blum speaks during a ground breaking ceremony for the west cargo at The Eastern Iowa Airport in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

INTRODUCTION

“Abby Finkenauer supports a radical overhaul of the health care system, which would eliminate private insurance and end Medicare as we know it. Abby Finkenauer is selling out Iowa to coastal elites. Finkenauer will join Nancy Pelosi and put government in charge of our health care. Their plan would double income taxes and cost us trillions.”

SOURCE OF CLAIMS

Republican U.S. Rod Blum’s “Radical” ad against Democrat Abby Finkenauer, his opponent in Nov. 6’s election for the Iowa 1st District.

ANALYSIS

Because it uses some buzzwords — which are value judgments and not facts that be verified — we’re skipping some parts of the ad. We’re going to review measurable claims in three parts.

Claim 1: First, we’ll consider whether “Finkenauer supports a radical overhaul of the health care system.”

She has supported universal health care, which a spokeswoman said includes support for adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act as well as an expansion of Medicare. “Abby believes that Medicare is a sacred promise to our seniors and she will fight any efforts to cut benefits or weaken its solvency,” the spokeswoman said. “ ... She has been clear in supporting the addition of a public option, such as a Medicare buy-in for people under 65, as the best way to make health care more affordable.”

Support for universal health care is becoming commonplace in Democrats’ platforms. Such a system is a major change from the current system. The claim gets an A.

Claim 2: Next, we’ll look at the claim that such an overhaul “would eliminate private insurance and end Medicare as we know it.”

To back this up, Blum’s campaign pointed to a video of Finkenauer discussing her health care views during an August 2017 meeting with Indivisible Iowa, a progressive activism group.

“To be honest, what I see working the best would be Medicare-for-all,” Finkenauer says in the video. “I think that is something we have to get to and make sure people have access. And not just access, but can have health care — because we can have the access all day long, but if the price is so prohibitive, people aren’t going to have health care. So I think, to be honest, that’s the only thing that makes sense right now and where we need to be headed.”

Finkenauer, in the video, clarifies she is supportive of a “single-entry” or “single-payer” system, a brand of Medicare-for-all championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

A spokeswoman for Finkenauer declined to clarify her position specifically on Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan. His plan, according to analyses by The New York Times and Vox, would create a universal, government-run program for all American residents and mostly eliminate private health insurance companies.

On an elimination of private insurance, a spokeswoman denied that claim and instead said Finkenauer believes a “strong private insurance market with affordable plans that cover those with pre-existing conditions as well as preventive care such as cancer screenings is essential.”

So it’s unclear what changes to health care Finkenauer would or would not support if she were elected to the U.S. House. In August 2017 she expressed support for a plan similar to Sanders’, which would likely eliminate private insurers. Now, her campaign says she’s supportive of private insurance.

Blum’s ad against Finkenauer is in line with what she said according to the August 2017 video. Because her campaign more recently has said she would not support a plan to “eliminate private insurance,” we’re knocking this claim down to a B.

Claim 3: “Their plan would double income taxes and cost us trillions.”

Analyses of Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill by both the right-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the left-leaning Urban Institute say the plan would increase federal spending by $32 trillion over a decade.

According to the Mercatus study, increasing total individual and corporate income taxes by 117 percent — more than doubling — would be required to fill that gap. This claim gets a A.

Conclusion

The ad’s claims that Finkenauer is “selling out Iowa to coastal elites” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pejorative and meant to sway opinion. But it’s true Finkenauer does support major changes to the health care system, as do a number of her Democratic colleagues. Because Finkenauer’s positions aren’t clear on just what those changes entail — although she does back changes to Medicare — we give the sum of claims measured in this ad a B.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our market. Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context. If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

l This Fact Checker was researched and written by Molly Duffy of The Gazette.

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