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PolitiFact FL Looks At 'Liberal' Obamacare; Cuban Repression

Is Obamacare really a creation of the "liberal elite?"  And have things gotten worse in Cuba for dissidents since Fidel Castro stepped down from office? WUSF's Steve Newborn digs into those claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

The future of the Affordable Care Act is up in the air, now that Republicans will take over the White House and control of both houses of Congress.  Closer to home, Gov. Rick Scott - who's a former hospital executive - has been railing against Obamacare for years.

He continued that streak in a Nov. 30 letter to USA Today.  Scott wrote, "It was sold on a lie. It was invented by liberal academic theorists who have no interaction with real families and businesses and therefore it doesn’t work."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's rulingon that "liberal" claim:

Bipartisan roots

To understand the invention of Obamacare requires looking back at previous attempts to overhaul health care, including by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Their proposal for universal health care prompted Republicans to come up with their own alternative in 1993. While as a party Republican senators never reached consensus, Republican Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island introduced a bill with 18 Republican co-sponsors (although some later withdrew) and two Democrats as co-sponsors.

Chafee’s bill had some similarities to Obamacare. It included an individual mandate, created purchasing pools, standardized benefits, and included vouchers for the poor and a ban on denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Another key player was the conservative Heritage Foundation, which advocated for health insurance exchanges including when Massachusetts, led by a Democratic Legislature and Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, crafted its own law in 2006. Many experts we interviewed noted that Romney is not a "liberal academic theorist."

The Massachusetts plan and the national law share the central idea of requiring everyone to purchase health insurance and setting up a marketplace to allow individuals to buy coverage.

Jonathan Oberlander, a health care policy specialist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said that liberal academics represented a part -- but not the entirety -- of the creators of the federal law.

"There were many cooks in this kitchen and these ideas were generated over a long period over time," he said. "Ideas such as the individual mandate, exchange and private insurer competition had previously been advocated by conservative health policy analysts and Republican politicians—in many respects the ACA’s design and some of its major policies embodied what used to be core tenets of GOP philosophy on health care."

Our ruling

Scott said Obamacare "was invented by liberal academic theorists."

Scott cherry-picked three advisers supportive of the law with ties to Obama. But he exaggerates by ignoring that many people over several decades from both parties developed the ideas for what would eventually become Obamacare. Most notably, Scott omits Republican Gov. Romney, who enacted a Massachusetts plan four years before the federal law passed, and the conservative Heritage Foundation, which was a strong advocate for the health care exchanges upon which both plans were based.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Next, let's fact-check an issue that resonates with a lot of Floridians - Cuba. There's a lot of uncertainty there, with the death of Fidel Castro and whether Donald Trump will roll back President Obama's opening to the island.

Senator Ted Cruz was on ABC's This Week, saying things have gotten a lot worse under Fidel's brother, Raul Castro.

"You know, in 2015 roughly 10,000 political arrests occurred in Cuba," Cruz said. "That is five times as many as occurred in 2010, when there were only about 2,000."

Here's PolitiFact's rulingon that:

Cruz’s primary source was the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. Based in Havana, the commission is the island’s oldest and most respected non-government, human-rights monitoring group, according to the Miami Herald, a PolitiFact Florida partner.

The commission reported 2,074 politically motivated detentions in 2010. That escalated to 8,600 in 2015 and then to 9,125 through October 2016.

The commission predicts the number of political arrests "will exceed the level of 10,000 detentions" through the end of 2016.

Experts on Cuba say the commission founded by Elizardo Sánchez has the most reliable source of data and sometimes use it in combination with other sources.

That said, the data comes with caveats.

"It's very hard to work with exact numbers in Cuba," said Pedro Alcántara, spokesman for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, based in Miami. "Not only are we fighting very strong repression, but sometimes the data changes every day."

The Cuban regime uses a revolving door for arresting political prisoners — most being held for hours or sometimes a couple of days and often facing violence while detained. In some cases, the prisoners are released without being charged.

The commission has been able to report on short arrests, said Florida International University political science professor Eduardo Gamarra.

"However, the accuracy of his data is also arguable since there is no 'official' acknowledgment that political prisoners exist in Cuba," he said. "Having said that, it is quite possible that the number of short-term arrests is higher or that it is quite lower."  

Some pro-regime groups criticize the list of the commission, alleging it contains multiple arrests of the same individuals within the same year.

Because his point requires additional explanation but is largely accurate, we rate this claim Mostly True.


Copyright 2016 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.