Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Fact-checking rural issues and more in presidential debate

President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden faced off in Cleveland last night in a widely panned slugfest. Biden made a few false and misleading claims, but, in the words of CNN's Daniel Dale, "We had an avalanche of lying from President Trump." Most of Trump's claims weren't new and had been repeatedly found false, Dale said.

The debate, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, covered six topics: the candidates' records, the Supreme Court, the pandemic, the economy, race and violence in cities, and the integrity of the election, though the candidates frequently went off-topic. Click here for a full transcript of the debate.

Here's a rundown of topics with rural resonance mentioned in the debate, as well as fact-checking:

The debate began with a discussion of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who Biden insinuated would help reverse Roe v. Wade, but Trump said "you don't know her view" on the case. The president said previously that he hadn't spoken to Barrett about her views on the case, but when asked on "Fox & Friends" if she would help reverse the decision, Trump said "I think it will work out."

Biden also objected to Barrett because, he said, she would help the Trump administration nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, costing 100 million Americans with pre-existing health conditions their insurance. They wouldn't necessarily lose coverage, but might have to pay more for it or have more difficulty obtaining it. noted only those who seek individual health plans would be at risk of being denied insurance, and only 6% of people get coverage on the individual market. Before the ACA, employer-based insurance, which covers 49% of the population, couldn't wholly deny insurance on such grounds, but insurers could deny coverage for some conditions for a limited period after a lapse in coverage. 

Told by Wallace that he has not produced a comprehensive health-care plan to replace the ACA, Trump said drug prices will be coming down 80% to 90%. Insulin, which had been expensive, is now "so cheap it's like water." Trump signed four executive orders on drug prices in July, including one on insulin, but it's still unclear how they'll be implemented and whether they'll result in large price reductions on prescription drugs. And insulin is still just as expensive as it was before the order for most people, Nicholas Florko reports for Stat.

Biden said he wants to keep the ACA and add a public option to it, and rejected Republican arguments that it would end private insurance. Trump alleged that Biden supported "Medicare for All," but Biden said that his public option would be for people poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

Biden said 10 million people lost their employer-sponsored insurance during the pandemic, but the study he cited also said all but 3.5 million of them would find insurance elsewhere, FactCheck reports.

On the pandemic, Biden accused Trump of not taking social distancing seriously, and said that Trump's own head of the CDC said that 100,000 lives would be saved if everyone wore masks and observed social distancing. Biden mistakenly attributed the quote to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, the projection comes from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, FactCheck reports. However, the CDC chief did agree in Senate testimony that face masks are a critical health tool.

Trump insisted that he has handled the pandemic well, and "We got the masks, we made the ventilators," and said the U.S. was "weeks away from a vaccine" and "far fewer" people are dying when they get infected with the coronavirus. 

A federal relief bill provided billions for hospitals to get protective personal equipment, ventilators and more, but rural hospitals, often at the end of supply chains, had a harder hard time getting critical supplies. Trump was incorrect about how quickly a vaccine may come, though he has encouraged vaccine companies to speed up their development and production. Trump said the vaccine could be available in weeks, but members of his administration have said it might not be widely available until summer. Trump suggested that any delay in the vaccine would be political, but there is no evidence to support that, FactCheck reports.

Biden, meanwhile, said a vaccine wouldn't be distributed at all until summer, but that glossed over the possibility that people with the greatest need for it could receive it this year, FactCheck reports.

Trump said several times that Biden wants to "shut down the country" during the pandemic. In an Aug. 21 interview, Biden said that he will "do whatever it takes to save lives because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus." That included shutting down the country if scientists recommended it. However, Biden has said he doesn't think it's necessary, FactCheck reports.

Trump said his administration had built the "greatest economy in history." That's false, according to The Washington Post's Fact Checker. (Also, rural economies took much longer to recover from the Great Recession than the nation overall.)

Trump blamed the wildfires in California on poor forest management, but the state and local governments only control 3% of the forests there. The federal government owns and manages 57% of the state's forests.

After the debate, "False stories about Joe Biden’s health continued to spread on social platforms," Elizabeth Dwoskin of The Washington Post reports.

Two more presidential debates are scheduled, in Miami Oct. 15 and Nashville Oct. 22. Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will debate in Salt Lake City Oct. 7.

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