Monday, August 24, 2009

Myths and Falsehoods About Health Care Reform

I thought we'd start off the week with a little light reading; you know, just some info and misinfo that needs to be put out there so we can make an educated decision without shouting and name-calling. So, grab a coffee and a danish, and let's begin:

MYTH 1: There is no health care crisis and the health care system currently works fine; only a small number of uninsured people would benefit from reform.

  • Rush Limbaugh: "There really isn't a crisis in health care in this country. The crisis in health care that--if you wanna say, that does exist--is the fear that a major illness or catastrophe could wipe you out, which isn't gonna change. In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector -- but day-to-day, there's no health care crisis in this country. You can get it. So, it isn't about health care, per se. This is just about gaining control, taking money, and controlling people's lives, and wiping out Republicans -- a nice cherry on top."
  • Steve Doocy, Fox & Friends: "Currently, 90 percent of all Americans have got some sort of health care coverage, which means they are effectively blowing up the system for 5 percent. Now, the 5 percent, you gotta worry about them -- you gotta worry about everybody who doesn't have it. But is it worth all of this for 5 percent?"

But the REALITY is that 25 million Americans were underinsured in 2007. And the situation facing the underinsured is the same thing that people who have no insurance at all face: they go without recommended treatment, follow-up care, medications or do not see a doctor when sick. Both groups face a financial hardship due to medical debt.

Big Insurance restricts or denies coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that customers had undisclosed, pre-existing conditions. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee examined the "practice of 'post-claims underwriting,' which occurs when insurance companies cancel individual health insurance policies after providers submit claims for medical services rendered" and found that three major American insurance companies rescinded almost 20,000 policies--saving themselves $300 million.

MYTH 2: Progressive health care reform proposals will introduce a system of "rationing" into American medicine.

  • Sean Hannity, Fox News: "We're gonna have a government rationing body that tells women with breast cancer, 'You're dead.' It's a death sentence."
  • Michelle Malkin, columnist: "Big Nanny Democrats want to ration health care for everyone in America -- except those who break our immigration laws."

The REALITY is that Big Insurance already rations care. In fact, they acknowledge that they do so, restricting coverage of procedures and tests like MRIs and CAT scans and denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.
Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent: [P]eople always say, 'Is there going to be rationed care?' And I can tell you, as a practicing physician, as someone who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time....I get all this paperwork that basically says, 'Justify why you're doing such and such procedure. Justify why you're ordering such and such test.' And if the justification is inadequate, the answer comes back, 'Well, that's not going to be covered.' Which basically is saying that the patient is going to have to pay for it on their own, which is, in essence, is what rationing is, in so many ways."

Big Insurance also rations care by rescinding coverage. President Obama even cited the case of a Texas woman, diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, who was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Three days before surgery, the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size.

MYTH 3: Health care reform provides for euthanasia, "death panel"

  • Betsy McCaughey, "And one of the most shocking things I found in this bill, and there were many, is on Page 425, where the Congress would make it mandatory--absolutely require--that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care. And by the way, the bill expressly says that if you get sick somewhere in that five-year period -- if you get a cancer diagnosis, for example -- you have to go through that session again. All to do what's in society's best interest or your family's best interest and cut your life short. These are such sacred issues of life and death. Government should have nothing to do with this."
  • Sean Hannity, The Sean Hannity Show: "Now, she [McCaughey] actually uncovered in this bill a particularly outrageous provision -- and by the way, there will be more to come in the Obamacare plan. According to McCaughey, she's saying under the House provision and the House version, perfectly healthy senior citizens are going to be forced to undergo, quote, 'end of life counseling,' apparently to encourage them to check out before their time is up."

And yet the REALITY is that advance care planning is not mandatory in the House health care bill. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009--which includes "Page 425"--amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider. It's covered IF a patient REQUESTS it.

Now, onto the DEATH PANEL CLAIM.

  • Glenn Beck, The Glenn Beck Program: "So, why is there no more discussion than there is on Sarah Palin and what she said over the weekend that there would be ... [a] death panel for her son Trig? That's quite a statement. I believe it to be true, but that's quite a statement."
  • Brian Kilmeade, Fox & Friends: "[E]veryone's talking about seniors, and they're talking about the middle class and affordable health care. If the upper class is paying for the next two classes, and are seniors going to be in front of a death panel? And then just as you think, 'OK, that's ridiculous,' then you realize there's provisions in there that seniors in the last lap of their life will be sitting there going to a panel, possibly discussing what the best thing for them is."

The REALITY is that "Death panel" claims have been conclusively discredited by more than 40 media reports. PolitiFact wrote: "We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no 'death board' that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. ... [Palin] said that the Democratic plan will ration care and 'my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care.' Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie than part of an actual bill before Congress."

MYTH 4: Under the health care reform legislation you will be denied care, and it will be given to undocumented immigrants instead.

  • Dick Morris, The Sean Hannity Show:"The point about these death panels is that if you restrict the amount--the lifesaving surgeries, and you tell someone, no, you can't have that bypass surgery--but I'm going to die if I don't have it. Well, here's the grief counselor. That will happen. And whether they fund the grief counselor or the end-of-life counselor or not, the rationing will take place when they tell you, no, you can't have the surgery because we have to give it to a 40-year-old illegal immigrant instead."

The REALITY is that the house bill expressly stipulates that those "not lawfully present" may not receive subsidies to purchase insurance. Under the "Individual Affordability Credits" section of the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009:

MYTH 5: Health care reform would be funded by broad-based tax increases.

  • Mara Liasson, Fox News Sunday: "But the fact is, what have they been hearing? It has a $1 trillion price tag over 10 years, it's going to raise your taxes. I think --
    Chris Wallace: "Well, aren't those both true?"

And yet the REALITY is that the surtax in House bill applies only to income exceeding $350,000 per year for joint filers. The House health care legislation would establish a 1% tax on joint income exceeding $350,000 but not greater than $500,000 per year; a 1.5% tax on joint income exceeding $500,000 but not greater than $1 million per year; a 5.4% tax on joint income exceeding $1 million per year. Single filers would be subject to the 1% surtax starting at income exceeding $280,000 per year.

MYTH 6: The House Democrats' bill will raise income taxes on small businesses and subject all small businesses to an 8 percent payroll tax as a penalty for not providing insurance to employees.

  • Wall Street Journal editorial: "The health-care bill is a jobs killer, with its 5.4-percentage point income surtax that would hit small business especially hard."
  • Gretchen Carlson, Fox & Friends: "[T]he real victim, potentially, of this health care reform ... is the small business owner. ... [T]hey are going to be hit potentially with this health care reform if they don't offer health care to their employees -- an 8 percent penalty on them."

In REALITY the House Ways and Means Committee stated that, using the broadest definition of a small business owner (i.e., any individual with as little as $1 of small business income), that only 4.1% of all small business owners would be affected by the health care surcharge."

Companies with annual payrolls of less than $250,000 would pay no penalty under the House bill. The House bill would establish a 2 percent payroll penalty for employers with combined payroll between $250,000 to $300,000 that don't offer health insurance to employees; a 4 percent penalty for employers with $300,000 to $350,000 in payroll; a 6 percent penalty for employers with $350,000 to $400,000 in payroll; and an 8 percent penalty for companies with annual payrolls exceeding $400,000. Additionally, the bill actually establishes tax credits for small-business employers that do provide health care.

MYTH 7: Health care reform would add $1 trillion-plus to deficit.

  • Associated Press: "But even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that none of the health plans pending on Capitol Hill would control long-term spending, and that ones with the elements Obama wants would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years."
  • Karl Rove, The Sean Hannity Show: House Democrats are "planning on a 1 trillion, 420 billion -- 420 million dollar price tag of additional spending over the next 10 years, and what they've done is, today, supposedly -- we haven't seen the details -- but they've trimmed that by 10 percent. So we're only going to beggar ourselves by $900 billion over the next decade and that's assuming they get all of the tax increases and all of the Medicare cuts that are built into this."

But the REALITY is that the House bill would increase the federal budget deficit by $239 billion over 10 years--not $1 trillion. In a July 17 cost estimate of the bill as introduced, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that it "reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill's insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion, partly offset by net spending changes that CBO estimates would save $219 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years." CBO thus concluded the legislation "would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period."

MYTH 8: House health care reform bill would "outlaw individual private coverage."

  • Investor's Business Daily editorial falsely claimed that the House bill includes "a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal." The editorial later stated that the "provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage."
  • Sean Hannity, Hannity: "The one thing that we do know in the health care bill is that it's gonna literally -- the bill says -- Investor's Business Daily had an article today -- and the bill says that if you don't have your insurance the year this legislation is implemented, you can't have a private insurance company. So that will end--hang on--that will end private insurance."

The REALITY is that the bill does not "outlaw" private individual insurance. The provision to which the Investor's Business Daily editorial referred establishes the conditions under which existing private plans would be exempted from the requirement that they participate in the Health Insurance Exchange. Individual private health insurance plans that do not meet the "grandfather" conditions would still be available for purchase, but only through the exchange and subject to those regulations. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted, the assertion "that individuals would no longer be able to keep their personal coverage" is "just not accurate. It's not in any version of the House bill; it's not in the Senate bill."

MYTH 9: Obama "admitted" that he has not read the House health care reform bill.

  • Rush Limbaugh asserted on his show that that Obama "doesn't know what's in the bill! He admits he doesn't know."
  • Sean Hannity, Hannity: "The president even admitted before the press conference--the day before -- he hadn't read the bill."

In REALITY, during a July 20 conference call, a blogger asked Obama to comment on the claim made in the July 15 Investor's Business Daily editorial that the bill, in the blogger's words, "will make individual private medical insurance illegal." Obama responded, "You know, I have to say that I am not familiar with the provision you're talking about."

MYTH 10: The co-op "compromise" eliminates the need for the public option.

And yet in REALITY progressive experts argue that the public plan is necessary for successful reform. Many news outlets have characterized Senator Kent Conrad's cooperative health insurance proposal as a "compromise," "hybrid," or bipartisan "alternative" to a public insurance option without noting the view by progressive experts that a public option is necessary for health care reform to be successful. The truth is that these nonprofit health-care cooperatives won't have any real bargaining leverage to get lower prices because they'll be too small and too numerous.

MYTH 11: Obama is pushing a single-payer system like Canada's or a nationalized health care system like the United Kingdom's.

  • Bret Baier, Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier: "President Obama spent a good deal of time at that news conference [on June 23] talking about health care reform, and Canada's medical system has been cited as a possible model."
  • Sean Hannity, Hannity: "I think Obama certainly" wants a Canadian-style "single-payer system."
  • Charles Krauthammer, Special Report: "[Obama]'s a man who's expressed ... a radical domestic agenda, which involves, as he puts it every time, a holy trinity of health care reform, by which he means nationalizing health care. ... And this is all in the service of leveling the differences between rich and poor and leveling the differences between classes."
  • Joe Scarborough, Morning Joe: "Of course--of course it's--not only is it naive, it's reckless to suggest that in the midst of a banking crisis that may have a $2 trillion price tag that you are going to choose this time to nationalize health care with a $635 billion down payment."

But in REALITY the president has rejected the Canadian-style single-payer system and the U.K.-style nationalized health care. During a March 26 online town hall meeting, Obama was asked: "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources?" He replied, in part, "I actually want a universal health care system," adding that rather than adopting a "single-payer system" like Canada's, "what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps."

Indeed, Obama has embraced the creation of a federally funded "public plan" as one of many insurance options available in the health care market, not the sole option, as in "single payer" systems such as Canada.

MYTH 12: Health care reform proposals are socialist and will lead to socialized medicine.

  • Glenn Beck, The Glenn Beck program: "President Obama has his massive $1.5 trillion health care plan. It's hogging up the news cycle. The Republicans and, you know, a lot of people are starting to say, 'Isn't this socialist here? I mean, this is pretty crazy.' The answer to me on that one is really easy: Yep, it's good old socialism. You know, pretty much raping the pocketbooks of the rich to give to the poor. I think that's socialism."
  • Rush Limbaugh, Rush's Morning Update: "The Obama budget also funds the relentless drive toward socialized medicine. And all that is just the beginning. The way to look at this budget is not with an economic lens, it is with a philosophical one. Liberals want to make America -- remake it in their image. And this is how you will pay for it.
  • Laura Ingraham, guest-hosting The O'Reilly Factor: "Powerful arguments against socialized medicine have been around not for months, but for decades. Ronald Reagan was saying this back in 1961." After playing a clip from Reagan's recording, Ingraham added, "I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums where law abiding and hard-working Americans are standing up for freedom."

In REALITY the conservatives have trotted out the "socialized medicine" smear for 75 years and it has never been true. In an Urban Institute analysis it states, "socialized medicine involves government financing and direct provision of health care services," and therefore, recent progressive health-care reform proposals do not "fit this description."

Media Matters for America found that, as far back as the 30s--with respect to at least 16 different reform initiatives including President Franklin D. Roosevelt's consideration of government health insurance when crafting the 1935 Social Security bill; President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 legislation establishing Medicare; and the health-care initiative by President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton in 1993 and 1994--conservatives have attempted to smear those proposals by calling them "socialized medicine."

It's what they do. use fear to sway the public.

MYTH 13: Prominent opponents of health care reform, like Betsy McCaughey, Rick Scott and Newt Gingrich, are credible health care experts.

  • John Roberts, CNN's American Morning: "Former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey is a long-time expert in public health and is currently the chairwoman of an advocacy group for patient safety."
  • Elizabeth MacDonald, Fox Business' Cavuto:"I want to go to my next guest. She's terrific. We're going to go fair and balanced now. She's Betsy McCaughey. She says that cutting health-care costs will only lead to worse care not better. Betsy is founder and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infectious Deaths."

In REALITY, Betsy McCaughey is a serial misinformer who has perpetuated numerous falsehoods about health care reform.

  • McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would "absolutely require" end-of-life counseling for seniors on Medicare "that will tell them how to end their life sooner."
  • McCaughey also falsely claimed that the Senate HELP committee's bill "basically" "pushes everyone into an HMO-style plan."
  • McCaughey concocted the false claim that a health IT provision in the economic recovery act enabled government bureaucrats to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care.
  • Challenged on her false claims about health care legislation, McCaughey allegedly insisted that she was right about the ultimate effect of a bill despite misrepresenting what it actually said. McCaughey's influence over the health care debate is not new.

In REALITY, Rick Scott has repeatedly been quoted by CNN, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal as opposing Democrats' health care reform efforts even though he was chairman of a scandal-plagued hospital firm.

  • Rick Scott he resigned as chairman of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., the nation's largest for-profit health care company, in 1997 amid a federal Medicare fraud investigation. In the Justice Department's press release describing a tentative settlement, they said: "When added to the prior civil and criminal settlements reached in 2000, this settlement would bring the government's total recoveries from HCA to approximately $1.7 billion."

In REALITY, Newt Gingrich has a financial stake in opposing Democrats' reform proposals.

  • Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation is a for-profit entity that receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a direct interest in whether a public insurance plan is part of health care reform.
  • Gingrich himself reportedly profits from his involvement with the group. Indeed, the group's website notes that the "Center for Health Transformation and The Gingrich Group are corporate for-profit organizations not affiliated with any other corporation or organization"

MYTH 14: Medicare has failed, and so the government can't be trusted to "run health care."

  • Sean Hannity, Hannity: "But why would you have so much faith, trust, hope, and confidence? Are you happy when you go to the DMV? Are you happy with the Postal Service? Social Security is bankrupt. Medicare is bankrupt. Why do people have faith that the government can run health care?"

In REALITY, Medicare costs have risen more slowly than private insurance. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman: "[S]ince 1970 Medicare costs per beneficiary have risen at an annual rate of 8.8% -- but insurance premiums have risen at an annual rate of 9.9%. The rise in Medicare costs is just part of the overall rise in health care spending. And in fact Medicare spending has lagged private spending: if insurance premiums had risen 'only' as much as Medicare spending, they'd be 1/3 lower than they are."

from HERE


lelocolon said...

Every time I read about the lies about Health Care reform I become so upset. This lies are meant to protect the super rich, the bankers, the insurance policy ceo's, and people are falling for this crap.

Beth said...

I love it. Let's keep trying to fight the lies and get the truths out there! Today we're being GOOD twins, not evil! 0:)

Kyle said...

Bob, I just wish we could get the thick skulled Neanderthals(conservatives) to read your blog. Such a good post!

Bob said...

Lelocolon: that's what I don't get, too. Do people really think that if insurance comapnies are against health care refrom that they're right? Why would an insurance company want to reform health care? They don't!

Beth: I'm with you. I get so tired of all the mis-info out there, and the fact that so many people just gobble it up!

Kyle: Those thick skulled Neanderthals will never get it. Sad to say!

Ultra Dave said...

Thanks for all the work you put into this! Have you considered posting it on Facebook in the notes section? I just recieved an invite to a group against health care reform. They are ignorant to the facts. This would do much to dispell that.

Joy said...

Excellent! Freakin' excellent!

Good idea about posting it to Facebook. I know how you feel about it but consider it.