Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 1, 2014

Fact Check: Advocacy group stirs Senate race

This Americans for Prosperity ad is airing in Michigan and features a leukemia patient whose insurance plan was canceled last year.

A new ad in the Michigan U.S. Senate race featuring a woman with leukemia has received national scrutiny from both fact-checkers and news outlets.

Naturally, we wanted to weigh in as well.

The minute-long spot from Americans for Prosperity is a first-person account of Julie Boonstra, a Michigan woman who has battled leukemia for five years. The ad criticizes President Barack Obama as well as Rep. Gary Peters, the Democrat running for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat, who voted for the Affordable Care Act.

“I found this wonderful doctor and this great health care plan. I was doing fairly well fighting the cancer fighting the leukemia,” Boonstra said. “And then I received the letter, my insurance was canceled because of Obamacare. Now the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable. If I do not receive my medication, I will die. I believed the president, I believed I could keep my health insurance plan. Congressman Peters, your decision to vote for Obamacare jeopardized my health.”

The ad is constructed in a way that it’s difficult to fact-check because the particulars of Boonstra’s situation are not immediately clear. Boonstra has publicly commented on some, but not all, of the details. Attempts by PolitiFact to reach Boonstra were unsuccessful.

Some outlets, including the Washington Post Fact Checker, have questioned whether the ad is misleading, even if Boonstra’s tale is grounded in truth. One of the key issues is whether her insurance is affordable.

Americans for Prosperity has shot back that the underlying message - that Boonstra lost her coverage during a health crisis, despite Obama’s promise of “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” — should remain the focal point. (Obama’s now-famous line was our 2013 Lie of the Year.)

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