While this blog was written one day prior to a watered version of the health care reform act moving to its final vote, there are still many in the U.S. who continue to wade through the misconceptions. Far from following the health care models of other countries and after over fifty years of fighting for some form of reform, if you're a 'dummy' like me, you may still not be as knowledgeable as you'd like regarding this revolutionary new legislation. However when dealing with the facts on some of the major issues, I was able to research some of the more topical myths that can be debunked.
A Government Take-over. Dissimilar to Canada and Britain, the government will not take over hospitals or other privately run health care businesses - and physicians will not become government employees. The U.S. government intends to help those who purchase insurance from private companies, but not pay all the bills like the system in Canada. Medicare and Medicaid will stay in tact, and the government would create health insurance exchanges for those who have to buy insurance on their own. This will be done so that Americans will be able to comparison-shop.
Employer insuranceEmployers Don't Need To Provide Insurance. Employers will not be required to buy insurance for employees, but larger employers with more than 50 workers may be subject to fines if they don't provide insurance. Congress apparently wants to encourage employers to offer insurance to all their employees, Fines will be issued to larger employers if their employees buy insurance on the exchanges and qualify for a low-income credit. Fines will be based on a sliding scale according to the number of employees, 50 and above.
Insurance Companies Will Refuse Certain Coverage. By 2014, when the exchanges open, insurers won't be able to deny customers for pre-existing conditions. There will also be minimum services they must cover and they will have to pay out a certain percentage of premiums for patient care. This is not to say that insurance companies won't be able to charge more for those insured that require pre-existing conditions.
Insurance premiums will continue to increase. The bill will prevent health insurance from escalating at the current high double digit percentages. For the four out of five who get insurance through their employers, the savings would land in the 0 to 3 percent range by 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Those who buy insurance on their own and don't qualify for government subsidies would incur a maximum increase of 13% (but the high end would be for policies that offer premium services).
Increase The Deficit. The most recent estimate of the plan, released by the Congressional Budget Office, said that it would spend $940 billion over 10 years. But new taxes, penalties and cost savings would offset that spending, the CBO said. So overall - the plan pays for itself, dropping the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years. Obama has said the plan will save more than $1 trillion in the second 10 years, but that estimate, according to the CBO, is highly speculative.
Medicaid Will Be Restricted. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for the poor, will cover all of the poor, instead of just a few groups. Right now, to qualify for Medicaid, a person has to be poor and also disabled, elderly, pregnant or a child. Under the new plan, all poor adults would qualify.
Abortions Will Be Covered. The government won't pay for elective abortions. But under the Senate plan, people will be able to buy insurance that covers abortion on the insurance exchanges, as long as the insurance company pays for the services with patient premiums, not taxpayer subsidies. Medicaid has an exemption for cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother.
Creating Death Panels. Numerous media outlets have now debunked right-wing claims that the House health care reform bill would encourage euthanasia of the elderly, including Sarah Palin's claim -- forwarded by the conservative media -- that the bill would create a "death panel" and the related claim -- initiated by Betsy McCaughey -- that the bill would "absolutely require" that seniors on Medicare undergo end-of-life counseling "that will tell them how to end their life sooner." Media Matters for America has identified more than 40 instances of media reporting that these claims are false.
A Universal Health Care Bill. Based on the final bill being watered down, what will become law is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office:
* Total uninsured in 2019 with no bill: 54 million.
* Total uninsured in 2019 with Senate bill: 24 million.
Will Lead To Socialism. The same was said about Social Security back in the 40s and Medicare in the 60s. But what was proven over the course of the last 60 years, both of these programs were actually responsible for lifting millions of people out of poverty and have lived longer lives as a result.
Need To Start Over. On March 17, MyBarackObama.com issued the following YouTube video, with the message, "if we fail to act on health reform, everything stays the same, right? Wrong. If we turn back now, the health care system we currently have will quickly start to unravel.
I am sure there are many other myths that can be debunked. So I ask the readers to post those that I have not covered in this blog. Whether you are on the right or left of this debate, it is important that we work with the facts versus 'scare tactic' mentality and politically-twisted logic. Health care has proven successful in countries that pay dearly for it - and at greater costs than the watered down U.S. bill that will be passed into law. I just hope that after we are on the other side of the vote, and the dust settles, these debunked myths will fade quickly and we can all deal with the pressing matters of living longer and healthier lives.