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Politics / Issues

PolitiFact Takes on Alan Grayson, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

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Congressman Alan Grayson is back in the news. The rather verbose Democratic Congressman from the Orlando area came to national fame a few years back, when he describe the Republican health care plan as "if you do get sick, die quickly." 

The recent talk about ObamaCare is getting him back in the headlines. He told Central Florida News 13 that if we don't implement all of the components of the Affordable Care Act that a lot more people are going to get sick - and die.

Here's what he told them recently.

"We have 45,000 people in this country who are dying each year because they don't have health coverage," Grayson said. "The Affordable Care Act provides coverage to virtually all of them, and the Republicans … want to stop it. I think it's horrifying."

This naturally rose to the top of the radar for PolitiFact Florida, whose fact-checkers had a rough time with this claim. PolitiFact's Katie Sanders says it's so complicated that there's no way to give it a rating on the Truth-o-Meter.

She says researchers working with the National Academy of Sciences in 2002 found that uninsured residents often delay or abstain from screenings and treatment for cancer or chronic diseases, and they lack access to medications that treat conditions like hypertension or HIV. The researchers estimated 18,000 people between ages 25 and 64 died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. (People age 65 and older are eligible for health insurance through Medicare.)

That team leaned on a 1993 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded that not having insurance makes a person 25 percent more likely to die than someone who has it. The 1993 finding came after examining federal medical data throughout 1971-87.

It’s impossible to know precisely how many people die from having no insurance. There’s no national data for it.

Richard Kronick, a University of California San Diego medical professor who now works for the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote in 2009 that estimates are "almost certainly incorrect."

Next up on PolitiFact, there was much press last week when Gov. Scott called for a statewide Education Accountability Summit in Clearwater. Even though the governor didn't show up, his interim Education Commissioner - Pam Stewart - is taking the baton on advancing his agenda.

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Pam Stewart

In a letter to the Miami Herald, she wrote that "National rankings show that Florida is moving in the right direction. High school graduation rates continue to increase at the fastest rate in the nation, with Florida leading the nation in the rate of Hispanic graduates," she stated.

PolitiFact Florida says this is "half-true."

It is true that Florida made major gains in the graduation rate. But that’s because Florida started at such an abysmally low rate: 49.9 percent in 2000, among the lowest in the country at the time. (And as of 2010, Florida remained slightly below the national average.)

Florida’s graduation rate rose to 72.9 percent in 2010 -- a 23-percentage-point increase second only to Tennessee.

Much of the increase in graduation rates was due to higher rates of graduation for Latinos and blacks.