“When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant […] my family lost their healthcare.”

Claim:  “When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant […] my family lost their healthcare. And a short time after that, my wife became ill […] and she passed away…”

Ad(s):  “Understands”

Sponsor(s):  Priorities USA Action

Air date(s): August 14

Total Estimated Spending On This Claim:  $1,096 ($2,193 Total)

Market: Cleveland

FactCheck.org Summary:  A grieving widower in a new pro-Obama TV spot says his wife contracted cancer and died “a short time after” Mitt Romney closed the steel plant that employed him and left “my family” without health coverage. That’s not quite so.

We find this ad from  Priorities USA Action  to be misleading on several counts.

  • Steelworker Joe Soptic’s wife, Ranae, died in 2006 – five years after the plant closed.
  • She didn’t lose coverage when the plant closed. Mr. Soptic told CNN that she lost her own employer-sponsored coverage a year or two later. She had no coverage after that.
  • And as we’ve reported before, when the plant closed Romney was running the 2002 Winter Olympics. […]

A bit of backstory: After he lost his job at GS Industries, Soptic became a  school janitor. The job had a starting salary of $24,000 – about a third of his pay at the steel plant – and did not include a health insurance plan that covered his wife.

But in  an interview  with CNN, Soptic said that when he lost his job at GS Industries in 2001, his wife still had health insurance through her job as an employee at Savers, a local thrift store. He told CNN that she left her job in 2002 or 2003 because of an injury, and that she then became uninsured because she didn’t have a fall-back insurance option through his employer. According to the  Kansas City Star, Ranae Soptic, 55, died in 2006, five years after the GS Industries plant was closed.

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Politifact Summary:  Joe Soptic said in the ad that when the plant closed, “my family lost their health care.” Yet Soptic’s wife had insurance for about a year or two after that through her own employer, according to  CNN, a fact that Burton’s group acknowledges.

Soptic said, “A short time after that (the closing of the plant), my wife became ill.” But that’s collapsing the time frame. The illness took place in 2006, some five years after Soptic lost his job, according to  POLITICO.

The connection between Soptic’s job, his wife’s lack of insurance and her illness is complicated. She had no insurance because a shoulder injury caused her to leave a job that provided coverage. That was the immediate reason for her being uninsured, not the plant closure. […]

We believe Romney bears responsibility for the general practices of Bain Capital and the record is clear that in Kansas City, Bain profited while many people suffered. But there is little to support the ad’s innuendo that Bain is responsible for the early death of the steel worker’s wife.

The cancer came several years after he lost his job and her lack of coverage was not due solely to her husband losing his health insurance. […]

The ad uses innuendo for a serious allegation, but there’s no proof directly linking the death to Bain. We rate the claim False.

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The Washington Post Fact Checker Summary: “Lay aside the question of whether Romney left active management of Bain in 1999 or 2001. The fact that Soptic’s wife died five years after the closure of the plant-and that she had had her own health insurance for a period after he lost his job-makes her passing largely irrelevant to Romney’s involvement in this transaction.

Yes, people without health insurance are less likely to survive cancer. Yes, Soptic lost his health insurance when the plant closed. Yes, Romney was involved in the deal at the beginning. But still…it kind of reminds us of the so-called “butterfly effect“–that a storm starts with the flapping of a butterfly’s wings.

As we noted, a case could be made that Bain’s involvement extended the life of a dying steel plant, in which case Soptic kept his insurance longer than he might have expected.

Soptic is welcome to his opinion on possible reasons for his wife’s death, but that does not mean Obama supporters should exploit it. On just every level, this ad stretches the bounds of common sense and decency.”

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