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Bridge Michigan
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Fact Squad | Meijer hits and misses with ad on Scholten health care plan

Republican Peter Meijer is going on the offensive again this week, with a TV ad attacking the health care plan of Hillary Scholten, his opponent in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District.

The TV ad ties his Democratic opponent to some of the most left-leaning health care proposals of the Democratic presidential primary. 

While Meijer’s ad is backed up with some facts, it also includes dubious claims linking Scholten to Elizabeth Warren and is fuzzy on his own stance on health care.

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The Claims

“Behind the Curtain” is a 30-second ad that claims Scholten wants to make “radical changes to your health care.”

It claims Scholten wants “Elizabeth Warren-style health care that can separate you from your doctor and close 44 major hospitals.” 

“Health care as you know it will be cut,” the ad says.

It juxtaposes Scholten with Meijer, mentioning the Republican candidate’s humanitarian work overseas, including “vaccinating children” and “saving lives,” and pledge to respect pre-existing conditions and lower costs.

The Facts

Per her official website’s health care page, Scholten plans to “defend the Affordable Care Act and work every day to expand on it, including working to create a public option like Medicare, for all Americans who want it.”

The public option is a plan that would allow Americans who qualify to sign up for government through a government system rather than for-profit, private, systems. 

Although the public option was discussed as a potential part of the Affordable Care Act before it passed in 2010, it got a second wind during the 2020 Democratic primary.

Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate, advocated for Medicare for All, which would create a public option and eventually prohibit private health insurance.

While Scholten supports a public option, she would allow people to keep private insurance, a plan that is aligned with Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s platform.

The ad’s claim that 44 Michigan hospitals would close under a public option comes from a study by the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future

According to Open Secrets, the group comprises “major drugmakers, insurance companies and private hospitals” whose sole purpose is to lobby against Medicare expansion.

Other research has concluded hospitals could suffer because a public option would drive prices down, but aren’t so dire about closure predictions.

“A public option that exerts pressure on hospitals to lower the prices they charge private insurers would lead to overall price declines,” according to a study from the University of California Berkeley School of Law.

The claims that Scholten’s plan can “separate you from your doctor” are  vague as well. 

But she supports expanding the ACA, which infamously led to many having to change plans, despite President Obama’s pledge that “if you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan” (which was deemed the 2013 “Lie of the Year” by Politifact.)

“Policies that threaten to close rural hospitals or separate patients from their doctors will only degrade health care outcomes,” Meijer campaign spokesperson Noah Sadlier told Bridge Michigan. “Instead, we must focus on reforms that advance affordability while preserving access and protection for pre-existing conditions.” 

The Scholten campaign released a statement saying the ad not only misrepresents her position on health care, but Meijer’s as well.

The ad says Meijer wants to continue protections for those with pre-existing conditions. 

But in a survey this year for the Campaign for Liberty, a political nonprofit founded by former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Meijer pledged to work to repeal the Affordable Care Act  — which protects people with pre-existing conditions.

Meijer has not laid out what sort of health care plan that he will support if he takes office in January.

“Public trust in government is already near record lows, and it’s the untrustworthiness of politicians like Peter Meijer that continues to chip away at our democracy,” Scholten campaign manager Wellesley Daniels said. 

“Meijer’s calculated decision to lie about his position on health care, one of the most pressing issues facing west Michiganders and a country in the throes of a pandemic, shows that he cannot be trusted.”

The Conclusion

The ad uses one study to back up its worst fears about possible consequences of Scholten’s stance on health care. That said, the public option could have negative consequences for some rural hospitals as it drives down costs.

But it’s a stretch to say Scholten plans “radical changes” to health care.

Meijer also tries to have it both ways, claiming he supports mandates for pre-existing conditions despite pledging to repeal the lone law requiring insurers to cover people with them.

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