Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Debunking the Health Care “Myth” Debunkers?

This morning I got up, turned on my computer, and checked out the headlines on my Yahoo home page. This is a regular occurrence for me – not so much because I am dying to know what is going on in the world, but because I am curious about what is wanted for me to believe about what is going on.

I came across an article entitled “Majority of Americans Believe Health Care Reform ‘Myths’”. .

I decided to open this article on up and take a look at what ridiculous “myths” people were believing now. We’ve all seen Sarah Palin and others mocked and ridiculed for their claims that Obama is trying to “pull the plug on grandma” with an Orwellian end-of-life counseling provision purported to be a part of the health care bill.

So I decided to take some time to check out the gargantuan 1,000-page bill itself to see what I could find.

Are all those health care “myth”-believers out there either shameless fear-mongers and/or jealous Republicans grasping at straws seeking defeat Obama in his lofty goals? Or is there some merit to their concerns?

I figured the bill itself would have the undisputed answers – what was truth, what was fiction – on any controversial points, or “myths”.

Thankfully, I was also able to draw upon a document written by some Dr. Stephen Fraser to Senator Bayh of Indiana in which he cites pages and lines that refer to certain contentious elements of the bill, giving me a great head start.

(see )

So, here it goes. “Myth” # 1 of this Live article is that wait times for health care services, such as surgery, will increase. Apparently 67% of respondents believe this will be the case. Why would anyone believe this?

Reality – Maybe because it is self-evident that when demands go up for any given service and the infrastructure to meet those demands stays the same, the service will become more scarce. I’m no guru of economics or economic theory, but this one is a no-brainer even for me!

“Myth” # 2 – Apparently about 80% of Republicans, 25% of Democrats, 56% of Independents (or 50% of respondents) believe the federal government will become directly involved in making personal health care decisions. I’m not sure how this could qualify as a myth, since:

Reality – According to page 30, Section 123 of H.R. 3200, there will be a government committee made up of between 19-27 individuals that decide which treatments and benefits are given for which illnesses. This committee is led by the “Health Choices Commissioner”, who is appointed by the President. Maybe it would be more appropriate to call him the “Health Choices Restrictor”, since the choices he makes will actually restrict the choices available to doctors and patients.

Further, page 42 of H.R. 3200 reaffirms that the Health Choices Commissioner will choose your health care benefits for you in the following delightful and engaging language:

“Sec. 142. Duties and Authority of Commissioner.
(a) DUTIES. – The Commissioner is responsible for carrying out the following functions under this division:
(1) QUALITIFED PLAN STANDARDS. – The establishment of qualified health benefits plan standards under this title, including the enforcement of such standards in coordination with State insurance regulators and the Secretaries of Labor and the Treasury. . . .”

Blah, blah, blah.

O.K. – this next one is big. “Myth” # 3 -- Roughly 60 % of Americans believe taxpayers will be required to pay for abortions on demand (78% of Republicans, 30% of Democrats, 58% of Independents).

Reality – There is no language in the bill that specifically forbids taxpayer funds to be appropriated to abortion. However, there is a piece of legislation called the Hyde Amendment that was passed in 1976 and which prevents Medicaid funds to be used for abortion except in cases of rape or incest. Some argue that the current healthcare bill would be subject to the Hyde amendment, and therefore abortions would not be funded except in extreme cases.

Others argue, however, that without specific language in the actual healthcare bill itself to disallow abortions on the government plan, an overturn of the Hyde amendment by abortion advocates would essentially make abortion-on-demand a state-funded benefit. Besides, the Hyde Amendment is specific to Medicaid and one could argue that it has no legal bearing on H.R. 3200. (See

This next part is what gets me. Another amendment proposed by Rep. Lois Capps of California, who incidentally has a strong pro-abortion voting record, was passed in July 2009 by Congress. This amendment specifies that abortion would be covered in a public option health care plan (using the taxpayers’ funds) should the Hyde amendment ever be reversed. Hmm – looks like someone in power has some plans for widespread government-funded abortion. (See

Here’s another biggie: “Myth” # 4 – 46% believe reforms will result in taxpayer subsidized health care coverage for all illegal immigrants.

The truth is that Medicaid already covers the health care costs for illegal immigrants with conditions that could jeopardize their lives, including the delivery of babies and emergency room care, at great cost to the taxpayers. With all due respect to illegal immigrants, it’s definitely true that expanding full coverage to these individuals would come at an enormous cost to American taxpayers.

Reality -- Page 50 Section 152 in H.R. 3200 has these elucidating words to offer: “All health care and related services (including insurance coverage and public health activities) covered by this Act shall be provided without regard to personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services.”

I have to be honest with you here. My 12 years of public schooling plus 8 years studying at an institution of higher learning did not prepare me to decipher such convoluted verbiage as this. If you can figure out what that means, please let me know, because the longer I look at it, the less sense it makes.

What I was able to gather from the bill is that nonresident aliens not having “acceptable coverage” are exempt from paying the 2.5% tax on income required of everyone else who is not suitably insured (Page 170, Lines 1-3), and that “individuals not lawfully present in the United States” are ineligible for affordability credits (Page 143, Section 246).

I looked up the term “affordability credits”, because I wanted to see if having them was equivalent to having health care coverage. I found that this is not the case -- ineligibility for affordability credits in no way equates ineligibility for any other benefits of the government-run health care system, and nothing else is specified about illegal non-resident aliens and health care coverage in the health care bill.

For a more detailed discussion of how illegal immigrants will likely be able to access the government-run health care system with few problems under the system being proposed by Congress, check out this document penned by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR):

Next -- “Myth # 5” – 54% of Americans polled (78% of Republicans, 28% of Democrats, 58% of Independents) believe the public option will increase premiums for Americans with private health insurance.

Reality – This can in no way be considered a myth to be proven or refuted, since it is merely a projection of a possible future outcome rather than a verifiable understanding about what the policy actually says. I did look around to see if I could find a precedent for private premiums either increasing, decreasing, or staying the same when a government system is introduced. I couldn’t find anything. I would be curious to know if such a precedent exists – let me know if you find something on this!

The truth is that an increase in the premiums of private health insurance due to the institution of government-run health care is a possibility at the very least. Check out what this guy has to say on the matter (scroll down about halfway to point number 2.):

“Myth” #6 – Half of all Americans polled think cuts will be made to Medicare in order to cover more Americans (66% of Republicans, 37% of Democrats, 44% of Independents).

Reality – Page 341, lines 5-9 state: “. . . the Secretary may determine not to identify a Medicare Advantage plan if the Secretary has identified deficiencies in the plan’s compliance with rules for such plans under this part.”

I’m not quite sure what that means, but it does appear that there could be some restrictions to senior citizens using Medicare Advantage plans. With this type of plan, senior citizens retain their own private insurance while still utilizing the benefits from Medicare. It is conceivable that such restrictions would, at the very least, lead to fewer health care choices for some senior citizens.

This article would not be complete without looking into the claims that the health care bill would support government-sanctioned euthanasia. The article reported that only 30% of respondents believe the government will “require the elderly to make decisions about how and when they will die.”

Reality – read pp. 425-430 of the bill and decide for yourself what it means for grandma:

It is interesting to me how much space is dedicated to regulating end-of-life services for senior citizens. For whatever reason, this is clearly an area of health care that the policy-makers want completely spelled out ahead of time.

Conclusions – After spending hours pouring over the health care bill proposed by members of Congress, many things are still unclear to me. One thing, however, is as clear as day – transparency in the specifics of the policies they are proposing is not a top priority for these guys.

Second, the various news stories and reports in the media about the health care reform bill should under no circumstance be taken at face value. Just because someone who writes a widely-circulated article states that something is a “myth” or a “truth” concerning health care reform (or anything else either, really) does not make it so.

Lastly, if you found reading this article to be tedious, you should try reading the health care reform bill!

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