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It's not just the Russia scandal: Pence lies about health care, too

We've grown accustomed to Vice President Mike Pence lying about the Russia scandal, but let's not forget: he lies a lot about health care, too.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, Nov. 29, 2016 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)
Vice President-elect Mike Pence speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, Nov. 29, 2016 in New York, N.Y.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) could barely contain his frustration over the weekend. "[T]here is real evil in the epidemic rate of lying that is going on right now," the Connecticut senator wrote, pointing to the latest comments from Vice President Mike Pence. "This is not normal."

We've unfortunately reached a point in contemporary politics where a quote like that, in isolation, needs some clarification -- because Mike Pence says untrue things about a great many things.

The far-right vice president, for example, has been caught making all kinds of demonstrably false claims about Donald Trump and the Russia scandal, but the latest controversy surrounds Pence's mendacious rhetoric on health care, starting with a speech to the National Governors Association. The Washington Post reported that Pence singled out Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), arguing that Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act in the Buckeye State has caused widespread problems.

"I know Governor Kasich isn't with us, but I suspect that he's very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months or even years," said Pence.The waiting lists Pence referred to apply to Medicaid's home and community-based services, and have not been affected by the program's expansion under the ACA. States have long had waiting lists for these services, and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's executive vice president, Diane Rowland, noted that waiting lists in non-expansion states are often longer than in expansion states, which currently receive a 95 percent federal match for their newly covered beneficiaries.

Kasich's office explained that the vice president's claims are "not accurate," and are "the opposite of what actually happened." The governor's press secretary added, "That's what we call #fakenews."

Pence's office said in response that he wasn't trying to connect Medicaid expansion and the waiting lists, but that, too, wasn't true.

But that's not even the falsehood that rankled Chris Murphy. Rather, when the Democratic senator complained about the "epidemic rate of lying," he was pointing to a separate Pence claim: "The Senate health-care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society."

Every independent analysis of the Senate proposal suggests the exact opposite is true: the Republican bill guts the Medicaid system, cutting hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, and leaving the most vulnerable Americans facing new peril.

These health care falsehoods, alas, aren't isolated incidents. Pence has been making claims about health care for months that fall apart under modest scrutiny.

We've grown accustomed to the vice president making bogus claims about the Russia scandal, but let's not forget his record in the health care debate is arguably worse.