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Fact Check: Ernst on Medicare

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Editor’s Note: This fact check is revised to correct the source for the $6,400 claim and add additional sourcing. It also changes the rating to mostly true from true as to reflect the dated nature of the 2011 Paul Ryan proposal.


“Joni Ernst wants to cut Medicare and end its guarantee. Seniors are going to pay thousands more while insurance companies rake in bigger profits.” An accopanying graphic claims “Retirees would have to pay $6,400 more a year.”


A TV ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched this week in Iowa.


The claim Joni Ernst wants to cut Medicare actually comes from her vote against a 2011 resolution in the Iowa Senate. S.R. 15 opposed provisions in the Paul Ryan budget that would privatize Medicare and Medicaid by giving beneficiaries stipends to buy their own insurance coverage. The resolution claims that proposal would increase costs and lead to fewer Americans “being able to obtain or retain health care coverage”.

As part of the proposal in 2011, the Congressional Budget Office released a report finding the Ryan plan would increase out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. It estimates by 2022 beneficiaries would pay 27% more in health costs under the current Medicare structure but would pay 61% more under the 2011 Paul Ryan plan. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning group, used those numbers to estimate that difference amounts to $6,400. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation also found similar increased costs.

It should be noted that all of these numbers are based on the 2011 Paul Ryan budget, which has since been drastically revised.

Ernst has said several times she wants to reform Medicare and Medicaid. Ernst has presented privatized models for social security reform and indirectly endorsed Paul Ryan’s privatized Medicare model with her 2011 vote. However, Ernst has not laid out a specific plan for Medicare reform.

Ernst’s website also notes “she opposes any efforts to change the promised benefits for today’s seniors”, suggesting any reform Ernst supports would be phased in for future generations only. Paul Ryan’s 2011 plan also would not have affected those currently enrolled in Medicare, so current seniors would not have paid any more or less for health care than they would under traditional Medicare.


This ad is a little misleading because it is based solely on a 2011 plan that is no longer on the table. But the facts around that plan and Ernst’s support of it are accurate, which is why we rate the ad mostly true. Sources:

Iowa S.R. 15

CBO analysis of Paul Ryan Budget

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