Fact check: Attack ad on Bruce Braley

Published: January 24 2014 | 10:56 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:36 am in Fact Check,


A new TV called "Tell Congressman Braley: Obamacare is Hurting American Families" attacks the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Bruce Braley, Iowa's 1st district representative. The ad claims that Braley about the Affordable Care Act, and that ACA is hurting Iowans.

Source of claim

Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group that supports Republican candidates and causes, released the commercial, which has been airing on major networks.

First claim

“They told us the lie of the century," a narrator says, and flashes to President Barack Obama telling an audience, “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan.”

PolitiFact, a non-partisan claim evaluator based at the Tampa Bay Times, did rule Obama's statement the "lie of the year."

The question is if Braley made this same promise. We could find no sources in which Braley is quoted making the exact same claim, but he has said something similar.

"I was proud to help pass the Affordable Care Act, which will decrease health insurance costs, expand access to quality, affordable health care, improve reimbursements for Iowa medical providers and allow Americans to maintain their choice of health insurance," Braley's website said.

This claim is deemed mostly true.

Second claim

The narrator continues on from the "lie of the century" theme to say, “And Braley kept telling it." Braley is then shown in Congress saying the “ACA is doing a lot of great things in Iowa." 

While Braley has touted several positive outcomes of ACA, he also has acknowledged there are problems, called for fixes, such as extending the enrollment deadline, and voted with Republicans on an unsuccessful bill to allow insurance companies to continue selling plans cancelled under ACA.

Part of Braley's quote in the commercial is taken out of context. In questioning Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius about the ACA on Oct. 30, 2013, Braley did say, “ACA is doing a lot of great things in Iowa," but he added, “all of these good things don't mean anything unless we solve these problems, and what I need to know is how confident are you that the problems will be fixed by Dec. 1?"

The claim is deemed false.

Third claim

The narrator next says that under ACA, “Our plans, canceled; Our doctors, lost; Our premiums, skyrocketing.”

In Iowa, there were 1,000 plan cancellations, according to the Iowa Insurance Division. The Associated Press tallied 4.7 million cancellations nationwide due to ACA "because they did not cover pre-existing conditions, hospitalization, prescription drugs or seven other basic benefits required under the law."

While the issue in Iowa was proportionately smaller, there were cancellations, so this piece is deemed mostly true.

The commercial isn't specific about what they mean by "Our doctors, lost," but it appears connected to several major news outlet reports that as a whole the ACA has created narrower networks that include fewer hospitals and doctors who will accept the health care exchanges. This piece of the claim is deemed true.

The issue of "skyrocketing premiums" is the trickiest to assess because there are some winners and some losers, and you can't compare plans before the ACA to after because the new law requires insurance policies to cover much more.

Dan Shane, assistant professor of health policy at University of Iowa, said people who are unhealthiest are likely the biggest winners while young and healthy individuals may be paying more.

In the past, the unhealthy could pay 10 times as much as a healthy person for insurance if they could get coverage at all. Now healthy or not, everyone that is the same age living in the same area would pay essentially the same premiums and this means the healthy tend to end up paying more, Shane said.

"It's too easy to cherrypick," Shane said of assessing the "skyrocketing premiums" claim.

This part of the claim is deemed unverifiable.

Fourth claim

The fourth claim comes from a radio interview during which Braley says, “The effects that were supposed to happen are happening.”

While Braley has called for fixes to problems, he's also noted at several points on his website and in the media that overall the results from the program are as intended.

This claim is deemed mostly true.


The ad is accurate in portraying Braley as a staunch supporter of ACA, but it does not give him credit for his work to fix some of the very changes Republicans also wanted.

For the main claim that ACA is hurting Iowans, this is subjective. There's a number of reports of people who've had their insurance plans cancelled or of people saddled with much higher bills. We can't definitively say Iowans are better off with ACA, but we also can't substantiate a claim that it has hurt society as a whole.

This fact check is deemed mostly false.


Americans for Prosperity commercial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFv-gDAHMCo

Braley's stance on the ACA from his website: http://braley.house.gov/issue/health

CNN report on fewer hospitals and doctors covered under the exchanges. http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/29/health/obamacare-doctors-limited/

Braley questions Sebelius about ACA, via YouTube: http://braley.house.gov/press-release/video-braley-questions-hhs-sec-sebelius-about-affordable-care-act-calls-extension-open

Braley votes to allow plans cancelled under ACA to continue, via the Des Moines Register: http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/index.php/2013/11/20/bruce-braley-defends-vote-to-tweak-obamacare/article

Braley speaking on the Bill Press Show about ACA working in Iowa (look around the 1:55 mark). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntTS_hG9LkU

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