Fact Checking Health Care Reform

While there are certainly legitimate reasons to object to the current health care proposals, Republicans have chosen to attack by misrepresenting what is being proposed as opposed to engaging in honest debate. Rather than having an honest debate of ideas we have an endless series of distortions from the right with supporters of health care reform attempting to set the record straight. A couple of web sites have been established to fact check the claims from the right. Organizing for America has established  Setting the Record Straight. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has set up Health Care Fact Check.

Of course the battle to get out the truth continues to be waged here in the blogs and sometimes in the media. Steven Pearlstein addressed many of the falsehoods spread by the right in a column in The Washington Post:

There are lots of valid criticisms that can be made against the health reform plans moving through Congress — I’ve made a few myself. But there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation.

Under any plan likely to emerge from Congress, the vast majority of Americans who are not old or poor will continue to buy health insurance from private companies, continue to get their health care from doctors in private practice and continue to be treated at privately owned hospitals.

The centerpiece of all the plans is a new health insurance exchange set up by the government where individuals, small businesses and eventually larger businesses will be able to purchase insurance from private insurers at lower rates than are now generally available under rules that require insurers to offer coverage to anyone regardless of health condition. Low-income workers buying insurance through the exchange — along with their employers — would be eligible for government subsidies. While the government will take a more active role in regulating the insurance market and increase its spending for health care, that hardly amounts to the kind of government-run system that critics conjure up when they trot out that oh-so-clever line about the Department of Motor Vehicles being in charge of your colonoscopy.

There is still a vigorous debate as to whether one of the insurance options offered through those exchanges would be a government-run insurance company of some sort. There are now less-than-even odds that such a public option will survive in the Senate, while even House leaders have agreed that the public plan won’t be able to piggy-back on Medicare. So the probability that a public-run insurance plan is about to drive every private insurer out of business — the Republican nightmare scenario — is approximately zero.

By now, you’ve probably also heard that health reform will cost taxpayers at least a trillion dollars. Another lie.

First of all, that’s not a trillion every year, as most people assume — it’s a trillion over 10 years, which is the silly way that people in Washington talk about federal budgets. On an annual basis, that translates to about $140 billion, when things are up and running.

Even that, however, grossly overstates the net cost to the government of providing universal coverage. Other parts of the reform plan would result in offsetting savings for Medicare: reductions in unnecessary subsidies to private insurers, in annual increases in payments rates for doctors and in payments to hospitals for providing free care to the uninsured. The net increase in government spending for health care would likely be about $100 billion a year, a one-time increase equal to less than 1 percent of a national income that grows at an average rate of 2.5 percent every year.

The Republican lies about the economics of health reform are also heavily laced with hypocrisy.

While holding themselves out as paragons of fiscal rectitude, Republicans grandstand against just about every idea to reduce the amount of health care people consume or the prices paid to health-care providers — the only two ways I can think of to credibly bring health spending under control.

When Democrats, for example, propose to fund research to give doctors, patients and health plans better information on what works and what doesn’t, Republicans sense a sinister plot to have the government decide what treatments you will get. By the same wacko-logic, a proposal that Medicare pay for counseling on end-of-life care is transformed into a secret plan for mass euthanasia of the elderly.

This is only an overview of the evidence against all the outrageous lies coming from the right. A full refutation of all their lies would take far more space than would be allowed for a single column. I have addressed many of these topics in health care posts on this blog.

I do have one objection to an otherwise excellent column. Pearlstein calls the Republicans responsible for these distortions “political terrorists.” They are dishonest and their actions are harmful to both civil discourse and to the country but there remains a considerable difference between this form of action and terrorism, with the use of such labels sounding too much like the name calling which has become commonplace from the right wing. Even with some of the unsavory acts used to disrupt town halls discussing health care reform, this is hardly comparable to the type of violence utilized by true terrorists.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “Pearlstein calls the Republicans responsible for these distortions “political terrorists.” They are dishonest and their actions are harmful to both civil discourse and to the country but there remains a considerable difference between this form of action and terrorism, with the use of such labels sounding too much like the name calling which has become commonplace from the right wing. Even with some of the unsavory acts used to disrupt town halls discussing health care reform, this is hardly comparable to the type of violence utilized by true terrorists.”
     
    The choice of words may be poor, but it’s not really that inaccurate. If one accepts ‘terrorism’ as ‘using fear or terror as tool to achieve one’s aims’ then ‘political terrorists’ is an accurate, if itself over-the-top, description of the right wing campaign against health care. I don’t think it is totally out of bounds either. We aren’t going to beat a campaign of fear with a campaign of facts, particularly since those most committed to belief in the right wing propaganda do not care about facts.
     
    A certain degree of pragmatism requires a certain degree of aggressive counter-propaganda aimed at those in the center. Not lies, as the right is selling, but a strong counterattack that does not mince words or apologize. There are lots of people who are not ‘conservatives’ who have a ‘conservative values system’, who prize tough talk and aggressive responses to bullies. President Obama did this very well in his recent campaign, whereas Al Gore and John Kerry floundered in ways that made them look ‘weak.’
     
    Proponents of health care reform have to look as ‘tough’ as opponents, as part of the psychological battle.
     

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Eclectic,

    There are certainly analogies between terrorists and those opposing health care reform but I would not go as far as to label them terrorists. Yes, both do use fear, but is is common in politics to appeal to people’s fears to influence their views. There remains a tremendous difference between using fear with misinformation about health care reform and creating fear with violence.

  3. 3
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Well, as you’ve noted in a more recent article, some of the people spreading lies are spreading really horrifying lies that it’s difficult to avoid tagging with that label.  Sarah Palin’s ‘death panel’ comment comes to mind, and it’s not the only one.
     
    To try to be a little tongue in cheek on a serious subject:
     
    ‘Demagoguery’ might be a better word for it, but the trouble is that when one has to stop and explain what it means one loses hope of passing the elevator test. ‘Terrorism’ meets that standard. 😉
     
    I wish Jeffrey would start snarking again. I’m no good at funny.
     
     

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Demagoguery is a better word and I’ve used it in the past to describe such techniques. You are right that the average person (the types who fall for Republican lies ) might not understand. Therefore it is simplest to call them lies.

  5. 5
    Eclectic Radical says:

    “Therefore it is simplest to call them lies.”
     
    I won’t disagree with this. However, it does not always carry the force someone extremely angry at the way things have gone for the last some years would like it to carry. I try very hard to stay on the right side of what I see as ‘the line’, but I have had my fiery tirades on my blog. I certainly sympathize with the sentiment behind the statement.
     

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