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Health Care Reform

Myths v Facts


Health Care ReformSo much is riding on the outcome of the health care reform debate. That's why it is essential that decisions be based on facts and on an understanding of the actual content of the bills under consideration. The following is an (edited) compilation of various responses to the most common myths and misleading claims raised by critics. The responses pertain most closely to the House version, where all committee review has been completed.


 Claim 1:  Health care reform proposals would create a government committee to decide what treatments or benefits patients may receive in a retooled health care system.

 Reality:  A committee would make recommendations on what sorts of minimum benefits insurers should be required to provide, but these standards are a floor, not a ceiling.  Insurers could offer more benefits if they chose, perhaps to gain a competitive edge, but they could not offer less.

 Claim 2:  Medicare benefits will be slashed.

 Reality:  None of the "savings" or "cuts" (whichever you prefer) would come from reducing current or future benefit levels for seniors.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House bill would result in “savings" of $219 billion after all increases and decreases are netted out. The House bill would trim projected increases in payments for hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others. However, it also proposes what CBO estimates is a $245 billion increase in spending for doctors, by canceling a scheduled 21 percent cut in physician payments.

 Claim 3:  Health care reform will raise my taxes and/or increase the federal deficit. It will become just one more drag on me and on future generations.

 Reality:  Under the House bill, health care reform will be fully paid for just three years after the bill takes effect.  CBO estimated that the cost of the bill’s reforms was $1.042 trillion over 10 years, while the bill’s cost savings and revenues totaled $1.048 trillion.   Since then, amendments to the bill have trimmed the cost even more.  The reforms will be fully paid for through a combination of almost $500 billion in net Medicare and Medicaid reforms (NOT cuts) included in the bill, and over $500 billion in revenue raised through a tax surcharge levied ONLY on the wealthiest 1.2% of Americans

 Claim 4:  Health care will be rationed under health care reform.

 Reality:  Insurance companies already ration care. Health care reform would help put an end to this rationing and would give Americans more choices and access, not less. Americans face unfair rationing of their health care by insurance companies, who deny coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, refuse to cover certain treatments and set arbitrary limits on how much care they'll pay for.  Companies also charge higher premiums based on an individual's health status. 

 Claim 5:  Government medical research will mean delay and denial of health care. 

 Reality:  The House bill explicitly prohibits the use of this research to define, limit, or mandate treatment or services.  “Comparative effectiveness research”, which has been funded by the federal government for years, is only about giving doctors information they need and want to better serve their patients.  The whole point of comparative effectiveness research is to compare the effectiveness of a range of treatments for a particular condition for specific patient populations to provide doctors and patients with useful information in determining what particular treatment might best benefit a particular patient – promoting “patient-centered” health care.

 Claim 6:  A government-run insurance plan would force providers to accept unreasonably low rates, undercut private plans and drive those insurers out of business.

 Reality:  An independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the House bill says that, of the people who would get coverage in the new health insurance exchange, 21 million would go to private plans, while only 9 million would go to the public plan.  In addition, we have the opposite problem right now, namely a severe lack of competition in the private market. A public plan is needed to drive down costs and ensure choices for Americans. 

 Claim 7:  Obama is pushing a single-payer system like Canada's or a nationalized health care system like the United Kingdom's. They want "socialized medicine”.

 Reality:  The President has rejected Canadian-style single-payer system and U.K.-style nationalized health care. When asked during an online town hall discussion, 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." And as PolitiFact.com noted, "Obama's plan leaves in place the private health care system, but seeks to expand it to the uninsured" and "the plan is very different from some European-style health systems where the government owns health clinics and employs doctors," as in the United Kingdom. According to analysis by the Urban Institute, "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." The analysis also noted: "Similar rhetoric was used to defeat national health care reform proposals in the 1990s and, with less success, to argue against the creation of Medicare in the 1960s."   

 Claim 8:  Proposed health care reforms will force taxpayers to pay for abortions.

 Reality:  The House bill continues current policy, which bars Medicaid from paying for abortions but allows private insurance companies to offer such coverage.   An amendment to the bill clearly states that no federal funds can be used to pay for abortions except in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the woman. 

 The responses above were excerpted and/or edited from CQ Politics (1), FactCheck.org (2), Service Employees International (4,6), Media Matters (7) and the Office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (3,5,8).  We only included responses that we could directly verify.




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