Health Care Blitz: Fact-Checking The Claims

Posted in General by TBartine on August 3, 2009 No Comments yet

The battle is on: with the Congress in recess, and no vote yet on health care, the conservative movement and the RNC/GOP are engaged in an extensive, expensive disinformation campaign against health care reform.  I’ve rounded up some of the most outlandish claims about the health care reform plan…along with some reality-based responses.

The opposition’s strategy is simple:

1)  Disrupt: in a leaked memo, opposition supporters are encouraged to attend an town hall meetings and be as disruptive as possible…so that an intelligent discussion about health care can’t take place.  This strategy is already being implicated as seen here, here, and here.  Here’s a clip of one such disruption:

A QUICK NOTE: When your side of the argument does not wish to “discuss the issue,” but rather seeks to “prevent others from discussing the issue“…you are probably on the wrong side of the debate.

2)  Disinformation: That’s right…when you don’t have your own proposal, and you can’t seem to find fault in the other guy’s proposal…just spread some false stories about the other guy’s proposal.  Truth is, a lot of people will be too lazy to perform any research, so they’re bound to believe whatever you say is in your opponent’s plan, is probably in there.  Watch here as Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) makes up some numbers and is busted for it on MSNBC:

His argument is totally sound…unless you think it’s more than a bit deceptive to round up $540 billion to $1 trillion.  What’s half a trillion dollars, more or less?  Let’s look at some of the more flagrant deceptions making their way around the internet and into the email inboxes of millions of Americans:

CLAIM: Page 16 of the Health Care Bill Outlaws Private Insurance

VERDICT TOTALLY FALSE Investor’s Business Daily posted an editorial claiming the following about page 16 of the bill: “Under the Orwellian header of ‘Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage,’ the ‘Limitation On New Enrollment’ section of the bill clearly states: ‘Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day’ of the year the legislation becomes law.“  You can’t read just one page of a 1000+ page bill and think that you have a clear understanding of the bill.  The bill clearly indicates that existing policies can be “grandfathered” in…and only prevents the insurance companies from enrolling any more people onto the old policies, because they will be CREATING NEW POLICIES to be sold through the new national health insurance exchange program.

CLAIM: The Public Option Will Drive All Private Insurance Out Of Business, Because They Won’t Be Able To Compete

VERDICT FALSE, IF YOU ARE A CAPITALIST:  The Congressional Budget Office has released its findings on this subject…and it is clear that insurance companies that are willing to cut into their multi-billion dollar profits…give up a few golden parachutes and bonuses…lower premiums…and provide BETTER SERVICE…will survive just fine.  You know what we call this procedure?  Adjusting to the “Free Market.”  In other words, if they want to keep overcharging and underserving…then yes, like all bad businesses with bad business models they will die.  If anyone should understand this concept…it’s conservatives.

CLAIM: The Obama Plan Would Cause 120 Million People To Lose Their Insurance

VERDICT INSANELY FALSE:  This claim was used by Republicans citing the Lewin Group report which said that all the private insurance companies would collapse or be forced to cut massive numbers of enrollees…yes, that’s the same Lewin Group that is owned by United Healthcare, one of the largest insurers in the United States.  And no, as with the previous item they are wrong…and obviously scared that they might have to do better business to compete with a public plan.

CLAIM: All People, Including Illegal Immigrants, Would Now Be Provided With Free Health Care Under The New Plan

VERDICT JUST PLAIN FALSE…NO ES VERDAD:  Not in the plan…nothing even remotely close to it is in the plan…just a big, fat lie that hopes to capitalize on the anti-immigrant prejudices of many Americans.

CLAIM: The ‘Health Choices Commissioner’ Will Decide Your Benefits…You Will Have No Choice In The Matter

VERDICT SO FALSE IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL TO REPEAT IT:  Under the bill, the Health Choices Commissioner runs the new national health insurance exchange program.  In order for an insurance company to participate in the exchange program, their policies have to meet certain quality criteria…this is to make sure that people aren’t tricked into buying “junk” policies.  All the Commissioner does is oversee the program and make certain that the participants don’t sell worthless policies.  This regulation, by the way, already exists…but is ineffectively administered, which is part of the reason the exchange is being set up in the first place.

CLAIM: Under The Plan, It Will Be Mandatory For Seniors To Attend Medicare Counseling Sessions Every Five Years And Plan How To End Their Lives…Sooner

VERDICT – FALSE…AND SHAME ON YOU FOR SCARING GRANDMA:  No…no…and no.  “End of life” counseling will now be OFFERED to seniors, but will not in any way be mandatory.  If a senior wants to learn about what his/her rights are in terms of denying treatment at the end of their lives, or they want to learn about hospice care…then they can receive counseling.  As far as I’m concerned, EVERYONE SHOULD know their rights in this area, and should have a Living Will established so that their “end of life” wishes are clear…but in the Obama plan, the counseling is optional.

CLAIM:  The Plan Will Lead To Fully Socialized Medicine

VERDICT FALSE…UNLESS THAT’S WHAT AMERICA WANTS:  The Obama plan leaves the entire private health care and insurance industries in place.  They may be regulated more…but it is still a private system.  All the plan “creates” is a new public insurance plan to add to the mix of private plans.  To say that anyone knows what the future holds for American health care is…well…just plain silly.  Obama will not always be president.  Legislators come and go.  If America ever has a fully-socialized health care system, it will be decades (if not centuries) down the road, when totally different politicians are in power, and it’ll only be because an overwhelming majority of Americans want it so bad that they are willing to say to their elected officials, “Create socialized health care, or we’ll vote you out of office.“  Until that day, private insurance is totally safe.

CLAIM:  Abortions Would Now Be Paid For By The Government, With Taxpayer Money

VERDICT FALSE…MOSTLY:  The Hyde Amendment from 1976, which bans the use of Medicare Funds for abortions, is still firmly in place…so no change there.  However, as far as the “public option” goes…there’s no language one way or the other in the bill regarding abortions.  It would be up to the Health Benefits Advisory Council (an existing council representing consumer, business, and medical provider interests) to decide whether abortions were covered or not.  On the record, Obama has stated that he thinks we should continue the tradition of  “not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care.

CLAIM:  The New Plan Will Lead To Rationing…The Government Will Determine Which Procedures You Can And Cannot Have

VERDICT DUH…:  Umm…this is already the case.  You don’t think your insurance provider dictates which procedures your doctor can and cannot do?  Of course they do.  The question is this:  Would you rather have an insurance company (looking after its profit margin) make the decision about which procedure you get to have…or the government (based on a the judgment of a board of doctors and other medical professionals)?  Your call…

CLAIM:  You Won’t Be Able To Keep Your Plan/Doctor

VERDICT SIGH…FALSE:  Seriously?  How many times does Obama have to go on TV and say, “You can keep your existing plan…you can keep your existing doctor.” Asked and answered, people…move on.

CLAIM:  Some Companies Will Choose To Stop Offering Private Insurance

VERDICT TRUE:  Yes!  This one is actually TRUE.  But…again…that’s the “Free Market.“  If a company decides that the penalty for not providing insurance is less than the cost of offering insurance, and it wants to stop providing those benefits to its employees…it just might.  But see…that situation already exists.  Your employer could decide RIGHT NOW to stop offering insurance to you (in order to save a ton of money), and there isn’t even a penalty for doing so.  The reason they offer you insurance is to attract you to work there, and to retain you as a “happy, healthy employee.”  If there is ALSO a penalty for not providing you insurance, your employer is EVEN LESS likely to stop providing benefits, wouldn’t you think?

CLAIM:  The Government Can’t Run The Program…Can’t Keep To A Budget

VERDICT FALSE AND HYPOCRITICAL:  People LOVE their Medicare…veterans LOVE their medical benefits…federal workers BOAST about how great their plans are.  Most people don’t realize that most government agencies not only keep to their budgets…they keep STRICTLY to their budgets.  This is because they are not allowed to ask for any more money.  As a result most government programs run very cost-effectively, down to the last penny, and never go in the red…in other words…they run better than many PRIVATE BUSINESSES.  In terms of cost effectiveness and customer satisfaction…you should check out the RAND study, which shows that the government-operated programs are superior to private insurers in 294 DIFFERENT MEASURES OF QUALITY.  I know…this is an easy lie for opponents to tell, because people WANT to believe these things about the government.  Paul Krugman wrote of an encounter in a Town Hall meeting where a man stood up and shouted, “keep your government hands off my Medicare!“  No matter how they tried to explain to him that his beloved Medicare WAS a government program…the man just wouldn’t believe it.

Want to learn more? Check this out…it talks about what actually IS in the plan.  Of course, take into account that the plan is already being revised and re-revised.  And if you clicked on any of my links you will notice that most came from Politifact.com and Factcheck.org…both good sites for quickly researching email and TV ad claims.

Happy fact-checking!