Thursday, August 20, 2009
I've been doing some research recently and have come up with truthful responses to the ten most common lies about health care reform:
Lie #1: President Obama and Congressional Democrats are seeking to “nationalize” health care, which will result in “socialized medicine.”
The Truth: Fear-inducing buzzwords such as “nationalization” and “socialized medicine” are not accurate descriptions of Obama’s health care approach. In reality, Obama and Congressional Democrats are advocating that health care remain primarily in private hands, but that the government should design a "health insurance exchange" and “public option” to cover most of the estimated 46 million uninsured. In addition, Obama is promoting new regulations to reduce escalating health care costs, guarantee the portability of insurance policies, and limit the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage simply because of preexisting conditions.
Lie #2: "Universal health care” is overly bureaucratic and results in a “government takeover” of health care.
The Truth: The U.S. is the only country in the industrialized world that does not have some form of universal health care. But “universal” is not synonymous with a “government takeover.” Though some countries such as Great Britain and Canada have indeed nationalized major components of their health care systems, other countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have found ways in which to cover everyone while also retaining a strong private insurance system. In this regard, Obama and a majority of Congressional Democrats have endorsed a relatively moderate approach designed to reduce bureaucratic red tape in both private and public health care institutions. Under such a plan, no one will be compelled to switch from his or her insurance company to a public option.
Lie #3: Health care reform will result in the rationing of care, thus depriving people of important medical services.
The Truth: Insurance companies are actually the ones who are currently rationing health care in the U.S. Every day, countless thousands of Americans are denied payment for needed operations and treatments by health insurance companies. In contrast, there is nothing in any of the major Democratic proposals that would ration care. This is simply another scare tactic designed by conservative special interest groups to forestall any major reform of the system.
Lie #4: Health care reform, as proposed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats, will supply illegal immigrants with health care coverage.
The Truth: The main House bill, HR 3200, actually bans the coverage of illegal immigrants. According to Section 246 in the bill, any type of health insurance exchange or public option would forbid payments "on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."
Lie #5: Health care reform proposals endorsed by President Obama and Congressional Democrats will mandate “death panels” for elderly patients, thus encouraging euthanasia.
The Truth: There is absolutely nothing in any of the bills before Congress that would provide for death panels or euthanasia. What HR 3200, Section 1233, actually states is that Medicare would be required to pay doctors for consultations with patients about "advance care planning," such as living wills, hospice care, etc. The American Medical Association, which has endorsed the Democratic approach to health care reform, has noted that such consultations would be strictly voluntary and not result in any type of rationing of care or euthanasia for seniors.
Lie #6: Democratic proposals for health care reform include a provision that would allow the U.S. government to access patients’ bank accounts and related financial records.
The Truth: Section 163 of HR 3200 entitled "Standards for financial and administrative transactions" requires the government to set "comprehensive, efficient and robust" rules for electronic transactions, thus reducing expensive and duplicative paperwork. This is one of several provisions that are designed to cut administrative costs and red tape in the health care bureaucracy. This provision only covers companies involved in medical billing and not individual patients.
Lie #7: The U.S. cannot afford any new, expensive government programs that will fuel the deficit for years to come.
The Truth: Currently, the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world. Every year, health care costs continue to rise, while insurance companies raise premiums and other out of pocket expenses for average consumers. Health care costs result in sixty percent of all bankruptcies in the US. One major reason why health care is so expensive is due to the approximately 46 million Americans who are uninsured that tend to visit emergency rooms for even minor ailments. As the most expensive place to receive care, ERs drive up the cost of health care in general. With universal health care, ER visits would almost certainly decline, thus saving huge sums of money. Maintaining the status quo will only fuel the federal deficit since health care inflation is having a dramatic impact on the rising costs of Medicare and Medicaid. Besides, Obama has promised not to sign a bill unless it is deficit-neutral. Health care reform is designed to eliminate waste and duplicative procedures, thus actually saving taxpayers money in the long run.
Lie #8: The U.S. has the best health care system in the world; thus there is no need for any major changes in government policies and regulations.
The Truth: Among 191 countries, the U.S. ranks 37th for performance in health care and 15th in overall attainment of health care needs (according to a 2000 World Health Organization study). The U.S. also ranks 26th in infant mortality rates among industrialized countries, according to recent OECD figures. The OECD found that the U.S. comes in last among industrialized countries in the fairness of financial contributions to health care. As the WHO report states, “the impact of failures is most severe on the poor everywhere, who are driven deeper into poverty by lack of financial protection against ill-health.” The Commonwealth Fund found in 2007 that U.S. health care ranks last compared with five other nations (Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand) "on measures of quality, access, efficiency, equity, and outcomes.”
Lie #9: Insurance companies would be unable to compete effectively with a government-backed “public option,” thus driving such companies out of business.
The Truth: In many countries around the world, a dual system of private insurance effectively co-exists with government-funded health care programs. Such private-public hybrids are the norm in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands. In contrast, the current private insurance system in the U.S. is overly bureaucratic and monopolistic, thus driving up health care costs. A public option would provide a more competitive market for health care, thus pressuring insurance companies to lower their rates. The idea that the private sector cannot compete with the government has been proven wrong in other sectors of the economy such as education (with private schools competing against public schools) and postal services (with FedEx and UPS competing against the U.S. Post Office).
Lie #10: Obama’s health care reform proposals will cut Medicare benefits for the elderly.
The Truth: Obama and Congressional Democrats are proposing cost-saving measures in Medicare and Medicaid that target waste, fraud, and inefficiency. The plan envisions huge savings in these programs by changing procedures for billing and paperwork, with a particular emphasis on ending overpayments to insurance companies. As many experts have noted, the Obama/Democratic plan will not reduce Medicare benefits in any way, shape, or form.