Healthcare reform: Debunking the myths

From an email.

With baseless claims and misinformation being aggressively peddled by opponents of health reform, it's been a busy couple of weeks for fact-checkers. To help you sort through it all, we've compiled some of the latest and greatest analyses and reports from independent and non-partisan organizations and media outlets. We will be updating this as more and more of the other side’s claims are debunked. Hope you find it useful.

Republicans use “deceptive assaults” to stop health insurance reform. “Republicans in Washington seem to be shifting into overdrive to keep a health system overhaul from passing Congress before the August recess. Yesterday, July 22, brought two more deceptive assaults (that we know of) on the pending bills, one from Minority Whip Eric Cantor and the other from the top GOP member of the House Immigration Subcommittee, Steve King of Iowa.” [Misleading GOP Health Care Claims, FactCheck.Org, July 23, 2009]

Cantor’s video “inflates” cost of bill by “more than 50%.” “Cantor’s is in the form of a video that accuses Obama and the Democrats of being in a “reckless rush” to finalize a reset of the system. “How much will it cost?” the narrator asks, as photos of House Democrats flash onscreen. “$1.6 trillion?” Actually, in a preliminary analysis released July 14 (and updated July 17), the Congressional Budget Office scored the House tri-committee group bill as costing a net $1.042 trillion. Cantor’s video inflates that number by more than 50 percent.” [Misleading GOP Health Care Claims, FactCheck.Org, July 23, 2009]

Cantor’s ad fails to mention there “is no Republican plan.” “In the sunny wrap-up to the ad, the narrator describes “the Republican plan”: “If you like what you have, you can keep it,” he says. “Access to an affordable basic coverage.” But there is no plan around which Republicans have coalesced. Back in May, some GOP lawmakers offered a bill that would have cut the tax deduction that employers get for offering their employees health insurance plans, and given workers tax credits instead. But there’s been little talk of the bill since then. And Missouri Republican Rep. Roy Blunt was tapped to head a GOP health care task force in February, which was charged “with crafting Republican solutions to increase Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care,” but which so far has produced no plan and seems unlikely to do so.” [Misleading GOP Health Care Claims, FactCheck.Org, July 23, 2009]

GOP claim about coverage for illegal immigrants, “not true.” “King claimed that this is what the Congressional Budget Office’s recent analysis of House health care legislation said. But it didn’t. His press release also said that the 5.6 million would be covered “in large part because the liberal proposal does not include any requirements to verify the citizenship or immigration status of those receiving taxpayer-funded health benefits.” That’s not true, either.” [Misleading GOP Health Care Claims, FactCheck.Org, July 23, 2009]

Canadian style health care? A “straw man argument,” based on opinion piece “riddled with errors.” “One ad claims that ‘Washington wants to bring Canadian-style health care to the U.S.’ But the health care bills moving through Congress don’t call for a single-payer system like Canada’s… Obama, too, has said repeatedly that he doesn’t back a conversion to a single-payer system…. But as we've said about other ads, all this sets up a straw man argument, criticizing Canada's health care system despite the fact that a purely government-run system isn't what's being seriously considered in Congress or being proposed by the president.” [Canadian Straw Man, Fact Check.org, June 17, 2009]

Insurance industry “cherry-picks facts” in fight again public option. “Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), invoked the statistic to argue against the creation of a government-run insurance option. But the polls are not that simple, and her assertion reveals how the industry's effort to defend its turf has led it to cherry-pick the facts. The poll Ignagni was citing actually undercuts her position: By 72 to 20 percent, Americans favor the creation of a public plan, the June survey by the New York Times and CBS News found. People also said that they thought government would do a better job than private insurers of holding down health-care costs and providing coverage.” [Health Insurance Industry Spins Data in Fight Against Public Plan, Washington Post, July 22, 2009]

Gingrich claims on cost and taxes of health care plan simply “not the case”. “As for Gingrich’s twittered claim that the legislation would increase taxes on “virtually everyone,” that’s not the case. The proposal would increase taxes on those with adjusted gross incomes above $280,000 a year or $350,000 a year for couples. That’s not a whole lot of people. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center projected a little less than 2.2 million households (1.4 percent of all households) would face higher taxes under the proposal. The surtax for those upper-income folks would start at 1 percent and go up to 5.4 percent with top incomes over $1 million. (This New York Times post explains how the surtax would work.)” [Tax-and-Spend Twittering, FactCheck.org, July 15, 2009]

Republicans use “misleading” facts when analyzing health Care. “A new ad from Conservatives for Patients' Rights says that a public health insurance plan now being proposed in Congress “could crush all your other choices, driving them out of existence, resulting in 119 million off their current insurance coverage.” That's misleading. The 119 million figure comes from an analysis of a plan that would mirror Medicare and be open to every individual and business that wanted it. But that's not the type of public plan President Obama has proposed. Nor is such a plan gaining acceptance on Capitol Hill.” [More Health Care Scare, FactCheck.org, June 11, 2009]

Investor's Business Daily is “perpetuating misinformation” on health care legislation, “page 16 doesn’t allow private insurance.” “Jennifer Tolbert, the (Kaiser Family Foundation) foundation's principal policy analyst, told us that Page 16 doesn't outlaw private insurance. “There will be individual policies available, but people will buy those policies through the national health insurance exchange,” she said. The House bill allows for existing policies to be grandfathered in, so that people who currently have individual health insurance policies will not lose coverage. The line the editorial refers to is a clause that says the health insurance companies cannot enroll new people into the old plans.” [The Truth-O-Meter Says: Private health insurance not banned on page 16 of the House bill, Politifact, July 22, 2009]

Rove “wrong”, “false,” “distorting” facts. “He (Rove) said, “The Lewin Group estimates 70 percent of people with private insurance — 120 million Americans — will quickly lose what they now get from private companies and be forced onto the government-run rolls as businesses decide it is more cost-effective for them to drop coverage.” That's wrong. The report said that people would choose to leave private insurance if given a cheaper option, but the report provided smaller numbers for other options. The debate in Congress over what a public option will look like is fierce and ongoing. So Rove is picking the worst-case scenario and then distorting the cause and effects. We rate Rove's statement False.” [The Truth-O-Meter Says: Rove's op-ed distorts health study, Politifact, June 12, 2009]

120 million deprived of health care is “not correct,” Pence’s statement “false.” “But there's a hitch: We'll grant that Congress could come up with a Medicare-style plan and open it to everyone, but it doesn't seem likely. Pence appears to be picking the worst number he can choose. And he doesn't mention the fact that under the scenario laid out by the Lewin Group, people would still have health care coverage and their premiums reduced by 30 to 40 percent. He says the government would “deprive” people of health insurance, when actually the scenario is that they would choose a different option. Finally, we have to include a caveat about the Lewin Group. The group says it operates with editorial independence, but it is a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, which also offers private health insurance.” [120 million “deprived” of health care is not correct, Politifact, May 19, 2009]

End of life claim, “pants on fire” “outright distortion,” Republicans “spreading a ridiculous falsehood.” “Republicans have found many reasons to oppose the Democrats' health care proposal, but this is one of the oddest. McCaughey incorrectly states that the bill would require Medicare patients to have these counseling sessions and she is suggesting that the government is somehow trying to interfere with a very personal decision. And her claim that the sessions would "tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner" is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn't just wrong, she's spreading a ridiculous falsehood.” [McCaughey claims end-of-life counseling will be required for Medicare patients, PolitiFact, July 16, 2009]

Lewin Group, frequently cited by GOP, “wholly owned” by “one of the nation’s largest insurers.” Generally left unsaid amid all the citations is that the Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers. More specifically, the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association, a physician's group, of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied its parent company and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the “usual and customary” doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care.” [Research Firm Cited by GOP Is Owned by Health Insurer, Washington Post, July 22, 2009]

Republicans “break previous promise” to provide health care bill. “GOP Rep. Roy Blunt has now said Republicans won’t offer a health care bill of their own, breaking a previous promise. Worse, it turns out Blunt is chair of something called the “House GOP Health Care Solutions Group.” Blunt’s quote went up online late yesterday evening: “Our bill is never going to get to the floor, so why confuse the focus? We clearly have principles; we could have language, but why start diverting attention from this really bad piece of work they’ve got to whatever we’re offering right now?” That’s a pretty stark admission that Republicans won’t introduce their own bill solely because they think it’s better politics to keep the focus on the Democrats. It gets better. Head over to the House GOP Health Care Solutions Group’s Web site, and you’ll find prominent video of Blunt vowing the GOP is “drafting our own legislation.”” [Leader Of GOP Health Care “Solutions Group” Says GOP Won’t Offer Health Care Bill, Washington Post’s Plum Line, July 23, 2009]

Americans support need to “pay for the cost of health care reform.” “A proposal has been made to raise taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 a year to pay for the cost of health care reform. Do you favor or oppose raising taxes on those who earn more than $250,000 a year to pay for the cost of health care reform? 48% Favor; 44% Oppose; 8% Not sure. Another recent poll found that 60% support taxing the wealthy for reform. So if, as Nelson says, “tax” is a four letter word, the public doesn’t appear to think of it as an epithet when it’s applied to the wealthy in service of health care reform. What’s hard to understand is this reflexive belief that majorities must think the way conservatives do.” [Despite Centrist Claim, People Support Taxing Rich On Health Care, Washington Post’s Plum Line, July 17, 2009]

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