PolitiFact: Roundup for past week


Our goal is to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution fact-check statements by local, state and national political leaders, including lobbyists and interest groups. We then rate them on the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

To fact-check the claim, reporters first contact the speaker to verify the statement. Next, the research begins. Reporters consult a variety of sources, including industry and academic experts. This research can take hours or a few days or even longer, depending on the claim. Reporters then compile the research into story form and include a recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling.

The fact check then moves on to a panel of editors who debate the statement and the reporter’s recommended Truth-O-Meter ruling. The panel votes on a final ruling; majority prevails.

For yet another week, the Affordable Care Act accounted for most of the workload for PolitiFact Georgia and the AJC Truth-O-Meter.

This past week, our national colleagues checked out a Facebook post about who is and who is not exempt from the individual mandate provision of the health care law. They researched a White House adviser’s claim about whether people can keep their existing health care plans. They also calculated emergency room costs, which one libertarian commentator said is a “red herring” in the health care debate. And for a local fact check, we counted up school days of Georgia’s school districts to determine how many are cutting calendars to balance the budget.

Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below.

Full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/.

To comment on our rulings or suggest one of your own, go to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/politifact.georgia). You can also find us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/politifactga).


Facebook posts: Congress, criminals, Scientologists and other groups are exempt from Obamacare.

This Internet meme, seen most recently on Facebook, revisited a common theme about groups that are and are not exempt from the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The post was featured under the headline, “Where is your OPT OUT? Let’s get this straight, it doesn’t exist.”

Most of the claims were way off-base, but we found some facts buried among the falsehoods.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden don’t need to buy insurance on the marketplaces, but they’re not exempt from fines if they don’t have coverage. Prisoners and American Indians are in fact exempt, but they still have health care of some sort. Members of a small number of religious groups can receive exemptions if they have formal objections to medical care or health insurance, but we found no evidence that Muslims or Scientologists meet that criteria.

Despite the few morsels of truth buried in the post, most of the list was incorrect.

We rated the Facebook claim Mostly False.


John Barge: “We have about six school districts that are in school 140 to 150 days this year.”

Barge, Georgia’s state schools chief and a Republican gubernatorial candidate, made this claim along the campaign trail last month at a town hall meeting.

Our research found that the state of Georgia requires that schools offer between 810 and 990 hours a year in instructional time for students, depending on the grade level. Most Georgia school districts hold classes for 180 days, but tight budgets often cause some districts to hold school fewer days.

We found that Barge was a bit off on his numbers. There were not six school districts that had 150 or fewer days of classroom instruction during the 2012-13 school year. The total was four. For this school year, three districts have scheduled fewer than 150 days of instruction while two plan 151 days of classroom instruction.

Barge was close, and he qualified his statement by saying “about” six districts have 150 or fewer days of instruction.

We rated Barge’s claim Mostly True.


Nick Gillespie: Emergency rooms account for “2 percent of all health care spending.”

Gillespie, editor of the libertarian publication Reason.com, made this claim during a recent discussion on CNN’s “Crossfire.” His claim was a total contrast to arguments by advocates for universal health coverage who point to the use of emergency rooms by uninsured Americans as reason for a health care overhaul.

Gillespie’s figure was from an American College of Emergency Physicians calculation, and is based on 2008 federal data. About $2.4 trillion in total health care expenditures were reported for that year. Experts told us that’s not the only way to calculate it, but it’s a credible way, and even if that figure is too low, other calculations put it in the single digits, between 5 and 10 percent of total costs.

Experts added that the total amount of money going to emergency care is ultimately less important than making sure that emergency rooms are used for the right type of care.

We rated Gillespie’s claim Mostly True.


Valerie Jarrett: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.”

This claim came via Twitter with a recent tweet from Jarrett, a White House senior adviser.

The White House has been on the defensive recently over its claim, repeated numerous times over the years, that under the health care law, if you like your health plan, you can keep it. Critics have called this President Barack Obama’s broken promise.

Jarrett’s saying there’s “nothing” in the law that forces people out of their health plans is a pretty extreme claim. One expert called it “word games.”

The claim implies that insurers who pull the plug on non-Obamacare-compliant plans are acting in some sort of government-free vacuum. Even if it’s technically true that the insurer pulls the plug on a plan, the insurer will only be doing this because the law itself and its implementing regulations have created a context in which, sooner or later, old-fashioned plans will inevitably pass into oblivion — as the law always intended.

We rated Jarrett’s claim False.