With the GOP poised to overturn the healthcare reform bill, a look at which are facts and which are simply rumors, about what reform will mean for you.
Since President Obama announced his intention to reform healthcare as one of his administration’s top priorities, the press has been rife with rumors about what a reformed healthcare system would look like. Insurers indeed are so afraid of a possible negative impact that healthcare reform would have for them, that, according to Bloomberg news, they gave the US chamber of commerce $86 million in 2009 to oppose health care reform. That money paid for advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill and certainly is responsible for many of the negative rumors that have been swirling around it.
With the GOP now poised to use their increased influence in the House to overturn health care legislation; and the powerful insurance lobby exercising financial influence on what information is relayed to the public, it’s crucial to decipher which rumors about reform are fact, and which are simply fiction.
Reformed healthcare will eliminate employer sponsored insurance
Fiction. The house bill should increase the number of those with employer-sponsored health insurance by about 2 million, and shifts many of the uninsured into private coverage. If your current employer does not insure you, chances are under the new bill; they will be required to.
Reformed healthcare would remove healthcare from millions of privately insured Americans, and require them to accept the public government healthcare option
Fiction. No one would be required to change their insurance. If you like your insurance as it is, you may keep it with no changes. The only change forced upon your insurance is that they will no longer be able to refuse to pay for your care based on any “pre-existing conditions” they may say you have.
Starting in 2011, employers will have to let you know how much they pay towards your health insurance
Fact. Starting next year, employers will have to indicate on your W2 form how much they pay towards your health insurance, but those premiums will still be exempt from income tax.
Government run healthcare requires taxes to be used to fund abortions
Fiction. The current bill does not require taxpayer money to fund any medical procedure, including abortion.
Healthcare reform will mean tax increases
Fact. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, just under 1.4 percent of US households would experience a tax increase to pay for reformed healthcare. The maximum tax excess will be around 5.4% for those with incomes over $1 million.
A government-run plan would result in “death panels” whereby the government requires people to decide how they wish to die or decides for them.
Fiction. This rumor appears to be based on section 1233 of the House bill, which will allow Medicare for the first time to fund patient-doctor consultations about end-of-life planning. These consultations will not be required – they will be up to the discretion of the patient.
Healthcare reform will mean cuts to Medicare
Fact. Healthcare reform will mean cuts to Medicare, but not cuts to Medicare benefits. The intention is to reduce waste in the money Medicare spends from its trust. Giving an example of waste, Obama pointed to the $177 billion over the last ten years that Medicare has given as subsidies to insurance companies to enable them to participate in Medicare Advantage.
Reformed healthcare will cut funding to those with chronic conditions or disabilities
Fiction. House legislation actually expands Medicaid; the program designed to help Americans with disabilities. It prevents insurers from refusing coverage based on pre-existing conditions and caps the amount that any individual will have to spend on healthcare. The new C.L.A.S.S Act would provide daily benefits for the disabled that they would be able to spend in a variety of ways, on long-term care.
The new plan will raise the deficit
Fiction. According to the Congressional Budget Office, while they will spend $940 billion over ten years, new taxes, penalties and cost savings should actually mean that ultimately the plan will save around $138 billion over the next decade.
The uninsured already have options and can get free medical care if they need it
Fiction. Those without medical coverage have no access to preventative care, which means their illnesses progress before being treated, often to a point where they are then untreatable, and certainly to a point where it is more expensive to treat them. Additionally, as they are not covered for long term or every treatment, such as chemotherapy or certain organ transplants, they must rely on charity or risk not receiving life-saving care at all.
You won’t have a choice in what health care benefits you receive and won’t be able to get private individual healthcare
Fiction. The House bill sets up a “healthcare exchange,” which is a list of private insurers and one government plan. People who do not have health insurance through their employer or another source, such as small businesses, can shop for whichever plan they feel suits them best. If your employer chooses a healthcare plan that doesn’t include services you feel you need, you can get your insurance from the marketplace separately at a competitive rate.
Illegal Immigrants will be able to receive free healthcare or health insurance
Fiction. The plan does not give anyone free health care and specifically states that any person in the country illegally will not be eligible to receive subsidies to buy health insurance, and will not be allowed to purchase health insurance, period.
Everyone who can afford it will be required to have health insurance
Fact. Starting in 2014, everyone who can afford to have health insurance will be required to have it or pay the penalty if they do not. However, those who cannot afford it are exempt, and include:
- those who would have to pay more than 8% of their income for health insurance
- people with incomes below the threshold for filing taxes
- those who qualify for religious exemptions
- those in prison
- members of Native American Tribes
- illegal immigrants
Employer-provided healthcare is cheaper than a public option
Fiction. Remember that employers would be able to choose the most economical option for them in the new marketplace, where the government plan would provide competition, thus driving insurers’ rates down and hopefully reducing the cost for businesses of insuring their employees. Additionally, if you choose not to have employer-provided healthcare, and to buy your own, you’ll be saving your contribution to your employer for insurance costs.
Doctors will be paid less by the government plan than by private insurance companies
Fiction. Doctors will actually receive 5% more under the government plan than Medicare pays for a specific service.
Doctors will be forced to see patients participating in the government plan
Fiction. Doctors will not be forced to see any patients from any particular plan if they do not wish, much as under the current system. However, the salary increase should encourage doctors to want to participate in the government plan.
Healthcare reform will be financially burdensome to small businesses
Fiction. Small businesses that already provide healthcare to their employees will not be affected at all. There is actually a proposition to provide a tax credit for small businesses that insure their employees. Ninety-six percent of small businesses would see no tax increases under the new bill.
People who want public health insurance must be implanted with a microchip
Fiction. There is nothing about this in the bill. Separately from the bill, implanting microchips in people with pacemakers has been discussed, so that medical professionals are aware if the pacemaker fails.
The new law will require hiring thousands of new IRS agents
Fact. The IRS will need more agents to help them in their role implementing healthcare reform; however, the number is not as great as has been reported in some arenas.
A government-run plan would price insurers out of business
Fiction. Just as insurers can often now offer a cheaper alternative to Medicare, so will they in some cases be able to offer a cheaper or better alternative to the public option, depending on the circumstances.