Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthcare Myth-Busting

After recently hearing "horror stories" of our proposed healthcare coverage at parties and bogus emails, I ran across this article from Newsweek. I never like to hear propaganda that just scares the basic public, who doesn't take the time to fact check. I know it is kinda long, but you can at least skim through the myth-busting. Feel free to forward some truth to your friends. If you would like to check the full article out yourself, please do:


August feels like campaign season, with claims on health care coming at us daily. Does the House bill call for mandatory counseling on how to end seniors' lives sooner? Absolutely not. Will the government be dictating to doctors how to treat their patients? No. Do the bills propose cutting Medicare benefit levels? No on that one, too.
But on the other hand, has Congress figured out how to pay for this overhaul? Not yet.

In this article we offer a run-down of seven falsehoods we've taken on recently, with some additional updating and research thrown in.

False: Government Will Decide What Care I Get (a.k.a. they won't give grandma a hip replacement)
This untrue claim has its roots in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill), which called for the creation of a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. The council is charged with supporting and coordinating research that the government has been funding for years into which treatments work best, and in some cases, are most cost-effective. Supporters of this type of research say it can provide valuable information to doctors, improving care and also lowering cost.
Betsy McCaughey, a former Republican lieutenant governor of New York (and now a professing Democrat), wrote in an opinion piece that the government would actually tell doctors what procedures they could and couldn't perform. The claim took off from there, popping up in chain e-mails and Republican press conferences. It's not true. The legislation specifically says that the council can't issue requirements or guidelines on treatment or insurance benefits:
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 : "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.''
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill (not yet released in its entirety) calls for a similar center that "will promote health outcomes research and evaluation that enables patients and providers to identify which therapies work best for most people and to effectively identify where more personalized approaches to care are necessary for others," according to the summary of the bill.
This claim also stems from a fear that the U.S. will institute a system like that of the U.K., where the government provides and pays for health care. But none of the bills now being debated in Congress call for such a system, and the president has said he doesn't want nationalized or single-payer health care, as we've said severaltimes.

False: Private Insurance Will Be Illegal
In July, Investor's Business Daily published an editorial in which it claimed that H.R. 3200 would make private insurance illegal. But IBD was mistaken. It was citing the part of the bill that ensures people with individually purchased coverage don't have to give up that coverage unless they want to.
Under the House bill, people who want to buy new individual, nongroup coverage will have to purchase it through a new health insurance exchange. They can still buy private insurance – the exchange, in fact, would offer a range of private plans, in addition to a new federal health insurance option. However, those who were already buying their own insurance before the bill went into effect – about 14 million Americans – will have their plans grandfathered in. The part of the bill IBD cites doesn't forbid insurers from issuing new plans. It says that new individual plans will not be considered grandfathered, and will have to be purchased through the exchange.

False: The House Bill Requires Suicide Counseling
This claim is nonsense. In an appearance on former Sen. Fred Thompson's radio show, McCaughey also enthusiastically pushed the bogus claim that the House bill will require seniors to have regular counseling sessions on how to end their lives:
McCaughey, July 16: The Congress would make it mandatory … 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 into hospice care … all to do what's in society's best interest … and cut your life short.

This is a misrepresentation. What the bill actually provides for is voluntary Medicare-funded end-of-life counseling. In other words, if seniors choose to make advance decisions about the type of care and treatments they wish to receive at the end of their lives, Medicare will pay for them to sit down with their doctor and discuss their preferences. There is no requirement to attend regular sessions, and there is absolutely no provision encouraging euthanasia.
Of course, seniors who talk to their doctors about end-of-life care might well choose to discuss what types of life-saving treatment they wish to refuse. That choice has been federally guaranteed for almost 20 years. Euthanasia, on the other hand, is legal in only three states, making it even more unlikely to be a major part of the federal health plan.

False: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed
The claim that Obama and Congress are cutting seniors' Medicare benefits to pay for the health care overhaul is outright false, though that doesn't keep it from being repeated ad infinitum.
The truth is that the pending House bill extracts $500 billion from projected Medicare spending over 10 years, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office, by doing such things as trimming projected increases in the program's payments for medical services, not including physicians. Increases in other areas, such as payments to doctors, bring the net savings down to less than half that amount. But none of the predicted savings – or cuts, depending on one's perspective – come from reducing current or future benefits for seniors.
The president has promised repeatedly that benefit levels won't be reduced, reiterating the point recently in Portsmouth, N.H.:
Obama, Aug. 11: Another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not.

Is he wrong? Not according to AARP, by far the nation's largest organization representing the over-50 population. In a "Myths vs. Facts" rundown, AARP says:
AARP: Fact: None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.
To be sure, Obama hasn't always thought that Medicare "savings" could be accomplished without actual cuts in benefits. Last fall, his campaign ran two television ads accusing Sen. John McCain of wanting "a 22 percent cut in [Medicare] benefits." The basis for the ads was a newspaper article in which a McCain aide said the Arizona Republican would cut Medicare costs. But the aide said nothing about cutting benefits, in fact quite the contrary. We called the claim "false" when Obama made it against McCain, and it's still false now when Obama's critics are making the same accusation against him.

False: Illegal Immigrants Will Be Covered
One Republican congressman issued a press release claiming that "5,600,000 Illegal Aliens May Be Covered Under Obamacare," and we've been peppered with queries about similar claims. They're not true. In fact, the House bill (the only bill to be formally introduced in its entirety) specifically says that no federal money would be spent on giving illegal immigrants health coverage:
H.R. 3200: Sec 246 — NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENSNothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
Also, under current law, those in the country illegal don't qualify for federal health programs. Of interest: About half of illegal immigrants have health insurance now, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, which says those who lack insurance do so principally because their employers don't offer it.

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