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All Da King's Men

Health Care Facts And Falsehoods

By Da King Published: September 4, 2009

Republicans are lying about health care reform. Democrats are lying about health care reform. The media isn't helping much to inform us. The media prefers to focus on contention at townhall meetings rather than the facts about health care reform. I guess that makes for better ratings. Infotainment.

So, what's a citizen to believe ? I think I've found something that will help a bit.

I received an e-mail from an obviously right-wing source a few days ago. The e-mail purported to expose 48 "facts" about the H.R. 3200 health care reform bill. I thought this e-mail sounded mighty suspect, so I did a little checking. As it turned out, Annenberg Factcheck had already done a point-by-point debunking of the e-mail, which Factcheck said originated from a single conservative blogger. Of the 48 claims from the blogger, Factcheck found 26 to be false, 18 to be misleading or partly true, and only 4 to be completely true.

What was most interesting about Factcheck's debunking was not the fact that the conservative blogger did a lot more misreading of H.R. 3200 than accurate reporting on it. I already know both opponents and advocates of the health care bill are engaged in deception. What was interesting about Factcheck's reporting was how much information it imparted about H.R. 3200, more than I have discovered elsewhere. You can learn more about health care reform there than from watching network news for months. That's why I'm bringing it up here. It's long, but definitely worth reading.

If you have lots of free time on your hands, you can also read H.R. 3200 in it's entirety, all 1,017 pages of it. Good luck. I haven't read it, but if you do read H.R. 3200, that will put you more in-the-know than the majority of Congress. They're too busy to read bills. They just vote on them (not that anything could go wrong there).

Because I'm a lot more interested in what IS in the health care bill than what isn't, I'd like to present some of those facts. These will consist of the blogger's claims and Factcheck's findings:

Claim: Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll Claim: Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll.

Both Partly True. The bill requires employers either to offer private health insurance coverage or pay a percentage of their payroll expenses to help finance a public plan. The 8 percent payment would indeed apply to employers with payrolls over $400,000 in the previous year, and lesser amounts would apply to smaller firms. Those with payrolls of $250,000 or less would pay nothing. But the penalty isn’t incurred if an employer "does not offer the public option," as the e-mail claims. Rather, it’s a penalty for not offering health insurance to employees.

Claim: Page 167: Any individual who doesn’t have acceptable health care (according to the government) will be taxed 2.5% of income.

True. This is the mechanism in the bill to enforce the individual mandate requiring everyone to have insurance. A person who doesn’t have insurance that meets minimum benefit standards (or other acceptable coverage, such as a plan that was grandfathered in) would pay a penalty of 2.5 percent of modified adjusted gross income for the year. The total penalty can’t exceed a national average premium for individual coverage, or family coverage if applicable

These are the essential provisions in H.R. 3200 to achieve universal health insurance. The government will FORCE many businesses to provide health insurance, and will FORCE individuals to buy it, or sizable penalties will be imposed. See how easy that was ? Government force works every time. How many jobs will be lost with the added cost mandates on business, I can't tell you, so I'll just say LOTS. Lucky we're not in a recession or anything, where this type of new government burden on business would REALLY hurt. To refresh your memories, remember that Barack Obama said on the campaign trail last year that he would NOT force people to buy health insurance. Oh well. I guess that was just more silly campaign rhetoric. We don't expect our politicians to tell us the truth when they're campaigning, and the majority of the mainstream media doesn't seem to care if Obama tells the truth ever.

Claim: Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.

Half true. It’s true that page 124 forbids any review by the courts of rates the government would pay to doctors and hospitals under the new “public option” insurance plan. But there’s no mention of “price fixing” in the bill; that’s the e-mail author’s phrase. It also remains to be seen if the “public option” plan would grow to become a “government monopoly,” as the author predicts.

Claim: Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.

Misleading. Nothing in the bill would “set wages” for doctors in general. Page 127 says the government would ask doctors to accept below-market rates set by the government for their patients who are covered by a new “public health insurance option,” just as they now are asked to do so for patients covered by Medicare. Physicians would still be free to charge what they wish for other patients, and free not to accept patients covered by the new program just as they are now free to refuse Medicare patients. That’s not a choice many doctors make, however, so as a practical matter the government would be setting rates (not “wages”) for many patients. On the other hand, the new “public” plan is aimed mainly at covering people who have no insurance now and can afford to pay doctors little if anything.

This is very informative. It tells you the government will set prices below market rates for the public option, as it does currently with Medicare, and no court can review the government's actions (so much for checks and balances). The private insurers cannot do this. This is how the public option will undercut private insurers. Factcheck says it remains to be seen if this will lead to a government health care monopoly, but c'mon now. That's disingenuous. The whole idea of the public option is to undercut private insurers and produce a single-payer system over time. It isn't about competition, as the Democrats keep telling us, because there is no way for private insurers to compete in such an environment. This tells you how they will achieve single-payer, and price-fixing is exactly what it is. For example, do you know any seniors who AREN'T on Medicare ? Of course you don't. Will any uninsured individual choose more expensive private insurance over a cheaper public option ? Of course they won't. And just as Medicare drives up the health care costs for all non-Medicare patients (because doctors don't profit from the low Medicare reimbursement rates), the public option will drive up the health care costs for all non-public option patients, putting private insurers at an even bigger disadvantage. It's beyond obvious what the public option is all about. I just wish the Dems would admit it instead of insulting our collective intelligence. The public option will lead to a government takeover of the health insurance market, and to far greater government control of the entire health care industry. That's not right-wing spin, it's economic reality.

Claim: Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.

False. It’s true that employers would be required to sign up their workers for coverage automatically, but it doesn’t have to be the “public plan.” It would be the employer-offered plan “with the lowest applicable employee premium” (pages 147- 148). This would only be the "public option" if the employer was eligible to buy coverage through the Health Insurance Exchange (not likely, at least during the first two years when only small businesses would have access), and the "public option" was the cheapest plan (which would be likely). Furthermore, while the employer isn’t given an alternative, the workers are. They may reject auto-enrollment under an opt-out provision (page 148).

Initially, the public option will be chosen by uninsured individuals and small businesses, because it will be cheaper. Notice that it's only during the first two years that bigger businesses will not have access to the public option. Any questions about what will happen after those first two years ???? Do you think the business sector will stick with higher insurance costs, or abandon them in favor of the lower cost public option as soon as they can ????? Anyone who has ever run a business knows the answer to that. Business always chooses to reduce it's overhead whenever it can, in order to remain competitive. There really won't be any other choice for businesses to make but to enroll in the public option.

Now, I'd like to look into my economic crystal ball and predict what would happen next.

Let's assume that the whole country is on the public option (single payer) some years down the road, and the government has fixed the prices below the market, as it does now with Medicare. What do you suppose the effect on the availability of medical care will be when ALL medical care is forced below market price, and the doctors have no way to make up the difference ??? Economics 101 tells us what will happen, via the laws of supply and demand. They are in effect with health care as much as in every other economic area. We will be increasing the numbers of the insured dramatically (increasing demand). While the government will not specifically control doctor's wages, by all doctors being paid less for medical services, the government WILL control those doctor's wages through indirect means, and lower doctor's wages, combined with less reimbursement for all medical services will result in..........anyone, anyone ???.........FEWER DOCTORS AND OTHER MEDICAL RESOURCES (less supply), which will result in........anyone, anyone ???...........LESS AVAILABILITY OF MEDICAL CARE, which will result in.........anyone, anyone ???..........RATIONING. Just like England. Just like Canada. So, while there is no specific health care rationing contained in H.R. 3200, the economic reality associated with altering the laws of supply and demand would inexorably lead to it.

At that point, I imagine some government drone would start calling for tax increases to subsidize doctors, in order to fix the medical care shortage problem that the government created. That same government drone would no doubt decry the failure of the free market (the free market that the government obliterated). We just saw what happened when the government manipulated the housing market for political ends. Do we want a repeat with medical care, where our very lives are on the line ? Or can the true answer to health care reform be found in precisely the opposite direction the Democrats are going ? Instead of regulating the free market out of existence, perhaps we should open it up and let it work (we don't have a free market in health care now), with only some market bearable cost controls in place. I'll leave it for you to decide. I know what I'd choose. I'd like to be able to select my own type of health care coverage, rather than have the government decide what's best for me. I can do that. I'm all grown up now.



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