FACT CHECK: Republicans And Democrats Claims About Social Security And Medicare

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

Democrats have spent nearly $100 million on ads this election cycle mentioning Social Security and Medicare, while Republicans have spent $12 million, according to The New York Times. Prominent members and candidates of both parties have made claims about Social Security and Medicare. Check Your Fact looked into some of them.

“On our watch, for the first time in 10 years, seniors are getting the biggest increase in Social Security checks, period,” — President Joe Biden in a Nov. 1 speech.

Social Security checks will see an 8.7% increase in 2023, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, this is tied to inflation and the Consumer Price Index. Checks are required to adjust for cost of living, as per a 1972 law.

Social Security checks increased within the last 11 years except for 2016, according to the SSA. Biden has noted before that Social Security checks would increase while Medicare premiums were down, according to CNN. The White House deleted a tweet that was misleading on Biden’s claims regarding social security, the outlet reported.

A White House spokesperson referred Check Your Fact to an Oct. 12 statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about the increase in Social Security checks and decrease in medicare premiums.

“This means that seniors will have a chance to get ahead of inflation, due to the rare combination of rising benefits and falling premiums. We will put more money in their pockets and provide them with a little extra breathing room,” the statement reads.

“All Democrats in the Senate and House voted to cut $280 billion out of Medicare just two months ago,” — Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott in an Oct. 30 interview with CNN.

The claim is in reference to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which was signed into law in August 2022. The act allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).

This provision is expected to reduce the federal deficit by $237 billion over 10 years, according to KFF. The National Academy of Social Insurance estimates it will reduce the federal deficit by $288 billion. Both organizations cite the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The provision does not cut Medicare benefits.

“In reality, the bill’s prescription drug savings would save the federal government nearly $300 billion through 2031 without cutting benefits – and while actually reducing premiums and out-of-pocket costs by nearly $300 billion more,” the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a non-partisan budget watchdog group, wrote in an Aug. 2 blog post.

Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the Program on Medicare Policy at KFF, also told Check Your Fact that “CBO said that the prescription drug provisions in the reconciliation legislation will reduce the federal deficit by $237 billion.”

“This is savings to the federal government and Medicare from lowering what Medicare pays for prescription drugs. This is not the same thing [as a] cut to Medicare,” Cubanski said.

“The bottom line is that while the Inflation Reduction Act is estimated to generate more than $200 billion in savings to Medicare from spending less on prescription drugs, it’s not as if there will be $200 billion less in benefits available to Medicare beneficiaries as a result of this legislation. In fact, spending less on prescription drugs has been a longstanding goal for policymakers, and these policies are broadly supported by the public, including people in both parties,” Cubanski added.

Clare Lattanze, Scott’s Press Secretary, referred Check Your Fact to previous comments Scott has made and a Fox News article where the senator said Democrats’ spending plans were a “war on seniors.”

Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have made similar claims on several occasions in the past. These claims have been fact-checked by other outlets such as the Washington Post, Factcheck.org and CNN.

“Don Bolduc will end Social Security and Medicare as we know it if we don’t stop him on November 8th,” — Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan in a Nov. 1 tweet

Bolduc has made comments about changing Social Security and Medicare. Politifact noted that in 2020, he told the Hillsborough County Republican Committee that he wanted a $1.2 trillion cut in Medicare and a $2 trillion cut in Social Security.

In an August 2022 town hall, he stated he wanted to get “government out of [Medicare]” and that “privatization is hugely important,” according to Politico.

In other comments made in 2020, Bolduc advocated for creating a new program for younger Americans, saying, “Social Security right now is not going to work for us.” The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that during an Oct. 10 exchange about Social Security, the Senate GOP candidate expressed willingness to start “private investment accounts.”

Bolduc’s campaign denied to both outlets that the candidate wants to privatize these programs. In an Oct. 28 ad, he said he would not cut Social Security and Medicare for older Americans.

Kate Constantini, a Bolduc campaign spokesperson, told Check Your Fact in an email that “The General has said countless times publicly that he wants to protect social security,” pointing the outlet to comments he made promising to protect the program for “our retiring population.”

“Here is a Commitment to America. What does it say in here? To save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare. It simply means [Republicans are] not touching it,” — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a Nov. 3 interview

McCarthy was responding to media reports that Republicans are looking to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Several Republicans have floated ideas of raising the retirement age and requiring higher premiums, according to The New York Times. In June, the Republican Study Committee released a plan that called for “phase-in an increase in means testing” for Medicare, Bloomberg Government reported.

Scott originally proposed, in March, sunsetting all federal legislation every five years, but later stated that Social Security and Medicare would not be part of it, according to Factcheck.org. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier in March that Senate Republicans would not sunset the two programs if they took control of the Senate after the midterm elections.

The House Republicans’ Commitment to America plan does call to “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare,” but does not outline specifics of the plan. Republicans have repeatedly denied that they are looking to cut Social Security and Medicare, according to Fox News.

McCarthy previously told PunchBowl News that Republicans would force spending cuts over raising the debt ceiling, according to the Washington Post. He stated that he would not “predetermine” if cuts to Social Security and Medicare programs would be part of the cuts.

Check Your Fact reached out to a McCarthy spokesperson and asked how Republicans would “save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare” as outlined in the Commitment to America plan.

Update: This article has been updated with comments from Cubanski. 

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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