WASHINGTON — Who's got the goods on health care policy? That question was an undercurrent in the feisty Democratic presidential debate as rivals stood accused of being lightweights who have done little more than put up Post-it notes or slideshows on the subject.
Also in the Las Vegas debate, Mike Bloomberg spoke of coming to the realization that stop-and-frisk policing policies were being overused by his police department when he was New York mayor. Actually, a judge ruled against the practice and the mayor assailed the "dangerous" decision at the time.
From Phoenix, President Donald Trump ribbed the debating Democrats and twisted the health plans of some of them in the process.
A look at how some of their claims Wednesday night stack up with the facts:
ELIZABETH WARREN on Amy Klobuchar's health plan: "It is like a Post-it note, insert plan here. ... Amy, I looked online at your plan. It's two paragraphs."
THE FACTS: That's not true. Klobuchar's health care policies run thousands of words online, addressing coverage, substance abuse and mental health, prescription drugs and the elderly. Some of her material lacks specifics found in the plans of several of her rivals. Yet aspects of her agenda are grounded in detailed legislation led or supported by the senator from Minnesota.
It's true that Klochuchar's main health policy page devotes two paragraphs to summarizing her way of achieving universal coverage. But that's not the extent of her plan.
KLOBUCHAR, smiling: "I must say, I take personal offense since Post-it notes were invented in my state."
THE FACTS: Yes, Post-it notes are one of the most well-known consumer products of St. Paul-based 3M, once known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.
BERNIE SANDERS, to Pete Buttigieg: "Let's level, Pete. Under your plan, which is a maintenance continuation of the status quo — "
WARREN: Buttigieg's health care plan is "not a plan. It's a PowerPoint."
THE FACTS: It's more than the status quo and more than a PowerPoint presentation. Buttigieg's plan would cover almost all U.S. citizens and legal residents, even if it's not as far reaching as the proposals of Sanders and Warren.
An analysis of health care overhaul plans by the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that an approach like the one advocated by Buttigieg ,would reduce the number of uninsured people from more than 32 million to below 7 million. Those 7 million would mainly be people who are in the country illegally.
The proposal from Buttigieg features a new government-sponsored "public option" plan that even people with employer-sponsored coverage could join voluntarily.
Warren's put-down of Buttigieg's plan comes after she reconsidered her own approach to "Medicare for All," deciding to proceed in stages. She would first expand coverage by building on existing programs and postpone the push for a system fully run by the government until the third year of her presidency.
STOP AND FRISK
BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: "What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out."
THE FACTS: That's a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg had a revelation. When the ruling came out, Bloomberg called it a "dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution."
In Bloomberg's first 10 years in office, the number of stop-and-frisk actions increased nearly 600% from when he took office in 2002, reaching a peak of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011. That declined to about 192,000 documented stops in 2013, his final year as mayor.
Bloomberg achieved his claim of a 95% cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013.
The former mayor defended the practice even after leaving office at the end of 2013 and only apologized for it a few weeks before declaring his candidacy for presidency.
TRUMP, on Sanders' Medicare for all plan: "Think of this: 180 million Americans are going to lose health care coverage under this plan. But if you don't mind, I'm not going to criticize it tonight. Let them keep going and I'll start talking about it about two weeks out from the election." — Arizona rally.
THE FACTS: That's a thorough misrepresentation of the Sanders plan as well as similar plans by Democrats in Congress. People wouldn't "lose" coverage. Under Sanders, they would be covered by a new and universal government plan that replaces private and job-based insurance. Democrats who stop short of proposing to replace private and job-based insurance would offer an option for people to take a Medicare-like plan, also toward the goal of ensuring universal coverage.
BLOOMBERG, citing his philanthropy's work with the Sierra Club: "Already we've closed 304 out of the 530 coal fire plants in the United States, and we've closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe."
THE FACTS: He's wrongly taking credit for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.
The U.S. coal industry's plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. Bloomberg has indeed contributed huge sums to efforts to close coal plants and fight climate change, but against the backdrop of an industry besieged on other fronts.
U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That's due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirmed in a report in December the extent to which the market has turned away from coal.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.
EDITOR'S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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