WASHINGTON (AP) — Speakers at the Democratic National Convention portrayed President Barack Obama’s presidency in glowing terms Tuesday evening, but sometimes left out important details or embellished his record.
Others mischaracterized programs backed by Republican challenger Mitt Romney and GOP running mate Paul Ryan.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Republicans lacerated at their convention last week, and Obama’s job-creation performance were among the initiatives burnished the most.
First Lady Michelle Obama was the main draw and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro the keynoter, but more than four dozen other speakers made presentations.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: ”Instead of sending your checks to your insurance companies, your insurance companies are sending a check to you. …If you already have health insurance you like, you can keep it.”
The facts: Under the new health care law, insurers must issue rebates if they fail to spend at least 80 percent of premiums — Sebelius incorrectly said 50 percent — collected on medical care and quality improvement. But mostly it’s the employer, not the worker, who gets the check.
The Obama administration says that about 13 million people will benefit from health insurance rebates averaging $151 per household. But the number of families actually getting a check will be much smaller, experts say.
For one thing, employers can plow all the rebate money — including the worker’s share — back into improving the company’s health plan. For example, they could reduce the premium for the following year.
Employers typically pay 82 percent of the premium for a worker, and 72 percent for a family plan.
Most workers and their families are covered by job-based health insurance, and the new law does not stop employers from changing their plans from year to year, as they do now.
Sebelius: ”So instead of the Medicare guarantee, Republicans would give seniors a voucher that limits what’s covered.”
The facts: She left out crucial details in describing the Romney-Ryan Medicare plan. It would not apply to the nearly 50 million current Medicare recipients but to future retirees who would join the program starting in 2023. Current beneficiaries could remain in the traditional program, while new retirees would get a fixed payment from the government that could be used either to purchase a private insurance plan or a newgovernment program modeled on traditional Medicare.
Romney and Ryan say they have no intention of limiting medical care for seniors — only restraining the growth of costs. And traditional Medicare also has its limits. It does not cover everything. Long-term care is not covered, only limited nursing home stays. And most must seniors pay out-of-pocket for dental care unless they have private insurance that covers it. Medicare has copayments and annual deductibles, and that’s also a form of limiting coverage.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: “Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition our president took action. And now we’ve seen 4.5 million new jobs.”
While that figure has become a White House talking point, it’s only part of the story. It’s a cherry-picked number that refers just to private sector jobs created in the last 29 months, from the trough of the recession through July. Governments — especially state and local ones — have continued shedding jobs.
The economy lost 8.8 million jobs from the time employment peaked in January 2008 until it hit bottom in February 2010. Between then and this July — the most recent month for which there are figures — just 4 million jobs have been recovered. Never since World War II has the economy been so slow to recover all the jobs lost in a downturn.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “We can only imagine what new secrets would be revealed if he showed the American people a dozen years of tax returns like his father did…. Mitt Romney says we should take his word that he paid his fair share. His word? His word? Trust comes from transparency, and Mitt Romney comes up short on both.”
The facts: Reid has challenged Romney on his tax returns before, but this time Reid omitted an earlier charge that over the past decade, there were some years when Romney paid no taxes — an uncorroborated claim that Romney insists is false.
Romney has released just one tax return, from 2010 and says he’ll release his 2011 return once it’s finished. He has steadfastly declined to make more than two years available.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: ”I remember when the president received a report that the auto industry had a few weeks before collapse… And because (he) made the right choice, over one million Americans are still working today.”
The facts: Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff at the time, makes it sound like Obama was the one who saved General Motors and Chrysler. (Ford never applied for federal help.) But, actually, the auto bailout program was started by President Bush, then extended and expanded by Obama.
Reid: ”We learned he chose Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island tax shelters over American institutions.”
Former Ohio Gov. Ged Strickland: “Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.”
Women’s Equality Activist Lily Ledbetter: “…doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars.”
The facts: These are references to a $3 million account that Mitt Romney held for several years in a bank in Switzerland and investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean. A trustee handling Romney’s blind trust said that the Swiss account was active from 2003 until it was closed in 2010. The trustee said the account had been opened for “diversification.” Romney still has active investment funds based in the Caymans, Bermuda, Luxembourg, Ireland and other foreign sites.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Associated Press writer Stephen Braun contributed to this story.