Three enduring myths about health-care law
While House Republicans' vote to repeal the health-care law Wednesday was largely symbolic, it's an issue that comes with a number of popular myths that persist and are worth revisiting.
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — House Republicans' vote to repeal the health-care law Wednesday was mostly a symbolic act, but it's an issue that comes with a number of popular myths that persist and are worth revisiting.
Claim: "This is a 'government takeover' of the health-care system."
Republicans repeatedly use this talking point to bash President Obama's crowning legislative achievement — but it simply isn't true.
In many ways, the health-care law resembles the Massachusetts legislation enacted in 2006 under then-Gov. Mitt Romney. The federal law builds on the existing private insurance system, adding requirements and incentives to ensure that most people have insurance.
The private system has no government alternative, or "public option." This was a potential provision that was dropped during the congressional tussle.
The number of people who qualify for the Medicaid program for the poor will be expanded. States (or the federal government) will run "exchanges," or marketplaces, in which private insurers will sell coverage to individuals and small businesses. But this should mean more, not fewer, people will have private insurance. Tax credits also will be offered to people who have trouble buying private insurance.
The law bolsters government regulation of the health-care system, such as forcing insurers to no longer deny coverage to people who have existing medical conditions, and will require people who have no insurance to buy it. But the core of the health-care system will remain the private insurance market.
Claim: "Medicare benefits will be cut — and payments will be cut to Medicare doctors."
This was a GOP attack line last year, though it in many ways was payback for Democrats' effective use of the same charge in 1994, when Republicans sought to restrain growth in Medicare spending.
The politically radioactive word "cut" is a misnomer. Under the health-care law, Medicare spending, one of the fastest-growing parts of the federal budget, will continue to increase, but at a slower pace than anticipated. Both parties, in theory, agree this is a good thing.
The law will cut projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over 10 years, primarily by lowering projected fees paid to hospitals and other providers and by reducing payments to private Medicare Advantage plans. Benefits have been added, eating into the overall projected savings, but the effect on the Medicare Advantage plans is unclear.
Claim: "Death panels will be created to make end-of-life decisions about people on Medicare."
This assertion, first made by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has been debunked thoroughly. Yet, it persists.
The charge stemmed from a proposed amendment that would have covered the cost of end-of-life planning sessions. Democrats dropped it after the firestorm created by Palin's assertion, even after it was proved incorrect.
This article was excerpted from washingtonpost.com/factchecker.
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