Top 10 Obama's Health Care Reform Myths
1. Illegal immigrants will get free health insurance.
The House bill doesn't give anyone free health care (though under a 1986 law illegals who can't pay do get free emergency care now, courtesy of all us premium paying customers or of hospitals that have to eat the cost). Will they be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance? The House bill says that "individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States" will not be allowed to receive subsidies. Can we say that none of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants will ever wangle insurance subsidies through identity fraud, pretending to be a citizen? You can't prove a negative, but experts say that Medicare—the closest thing to the proposals in the House bill—has no such problem.
2. Health reform would permit the euthanization of the elderly and chronically ill ("death panels").
This myth stems partly from a provision in one of the bills under consideration that would provide funding for seniors to receive counseling on end-of-life issues such as living wills. The Republican Senator who's been leading the charge for such a provision called this myth "nuts."
There is nothing in any health care reform bill before Congress that would require people to "decide how they wish to die." Conservative talking points from activists and legislators, however, would suggest otherwise. In fact, section 1233 of the House bill would allow Medicare for the first time to cover patient-doctor consultations about end-of-life planning, including discussions about drawing up a living will or planning hospice treatment. Patients would, of course, seek out such advice on their own -- they would not be required to. The provision would limit Medicare coverage to one consultation every five years.
3. The legislation won't cut Medicare.
Reductions in Medicare outlays finance about half of the legislation's $1 trillion in new entitlement spending. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office verifies that the legislation would reduce Medicare benefits. President Obama's top Medicare actuary verifies that it would reduce access to care for Medicare beneficiaries.
Of course, Congress needs to restrain Medicare spending. Otherwise, income-tax rates would have to double by midcentury. But the solution is to make Medicare more efficient, not to use price controls and bureaucratic rationing.
4. The legislation would contain health care costs.
The Obama plan would increase health care costs for the simple reason that it would put millions more patients, plus doctors and insurers, in a position where they are spending the taxpayers' money. That never produces frugality. The only provision that would change incentives is the president's proposed tax on the sick and others with high-cost health plans. But he appears ready to abandon that, anyway.
5. Americans Will Lose Their Private Insurance
A prevalent conservative talking point is that the proposed government-sponsored health insurance plan, or "public option," could drive private insurers out of business and that millions of Americans would lose their current health insurance. In the study of the Lewin Group said that if Medicare payment levels were used in the public plan, premiums would be up to 30 percent less than premiums for comparable private coverage, potentially prompting more than 119 million people to switch from private to public insurance if the plan were open to everyone. The Republican letter characterized this shift in care as "119.1 million Americans losing their private coverage." In fact, that figure represents Americans who would presumably change their plans voluntarily. The bill does not force private insurers out of business or force people onto the public plan. That large number represents what shift may occur if the public plan were open to everyone. The legislation in both the House and the Senate, however, would actually prohibit many people with employer-based insurance from switching to the public option, even if they wanted to.
6. The government will set doctors' wages.
Physicians who choose to accept patients in the public insurance plan would receive 5 percent more than Medicare pays for a given service, doctors can refuse to accept such patients, and, even if they participate in a public plan, they are not salaried employees of it any more than your doctor today is an employee of. There are also honest and principled objections to health-care reform. Many are simply scared out of their wits about what health-care reform will mean for them. But when fear and loathing hijack the brain, anything becomes believable—even that health-care reform is unconstitutional.
7. There is no choice in what health benefits to receive.
This is just the myth that a "health choices commissioner" will decide what benefits for you to get. The government will indeed require that participating plans not refuse people with preexisting conditions and offer at least minimum coverage, just as it does now with employer-provided insurance plans and part D. The requirements will be floors, not ceilings, however, in that the feds will have no say in how generous private insurance can be. In fact, the House bill sets up a health-care exchange—essentially a list of private insurers and one government plan—where people who do not have health insurance through their employer or some other source (including small businesses) can shop for a plan, much as seniors shop for a drug plan under Medicare part D.
8. You Will Be Able to Keep Your Plan
"Here's a guarantee that I've made," the president said at the AARP tele-town hall conference. "If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance."
Democrats would indeed compel employers to continue to shoulder some of the cost burden of health care by creating a "pay or play" mandate, requiring companies to either provide insurance for their workers or pay a fine. However, employer coverage would have to meet certain requirements; for example, plans would not be allowed to charge co-pays for preventive care. It is possible some companies would have to alter their coverage, or would instead choose to drop their coverage all together and pay a fine.
9. The Health Care Legislation Mandates Taxpayer Dollars Pay for Abortions
The House Energy and Commerce Committee adopted an amendment, proposed by Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), that would prohibit taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. The amendment would not allow the federal government to either require or prohibit abortion coverage by private insurers. It requires at least one plan from the federal health insurance exchange in each region of the country to cover abortion, and at least one of the plans to not cover abortion.
"Private health care providers are free to cover abortion, but not with federal funds," reports Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News and World Report. "The public plan would cover abortion, but not with federal funds; a Capitol Hill aide tells me money for abortions would come from what participants pay into the public plan."
10. Health reform would leave the US with a system like Britain's or Canada's.
Although the British and Canadian health-care systems are often brought up by critics of health care reform, none of the plans under consideration resemble either system very much (although details of the different reform proposals borrow from elements in health care systems all over the world). Journalist T.R. Reid, who has reported extensively on health care, clusters different health care systems around the world into four broad categories. The category that describes the current proposals for the US health care system would shift it closer to systems in Germany, Japan, France and Belgium than to systems in Britain or Canada. Here's Factcheck.org debunking the claim that health reform would shift the US to a Canadian system.
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