Yahoo misses as ‘Mythbusters’

posted at 1:40 pm on August 25, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

I have to admit, I’m a bit puzzled by the Yahoo/Live Science report on polling on ObamaCare issues that Barack Obama calls “myths”.  I get the idea that they want to see how Obama’s pushback will sell with the American people, but it also presents a good opportunity to do some actual reporting and determine whether Obama is telling myths of his own.  Instead, the article blithely accepts Obama’s characterization, using scare quotes around the word myth as its only acknowledgment of dispute.

As it is, the headline notes that Obama hasn’t had much success in convincing the majority of Americans that these are myths at all:

  • 67 percent of respondents believe that wait times for health care services, such as surgery, will increase (91 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Independents).
  • About five out of 10 believe the federal government will become directly involved in making personal health care decisions (80 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Independents).
  • Roughly six out of 10 Americans believe taxpayers will be required to pay for abortions (78 percent of Republicans, 30 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents)
  • 46 percent believe reforms will result in health care coverage for all illegal immigrants (66 percent of Republicans, 29 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Independents).
  • 54 percent believe the public option will increase premiums for Americans with private health insurance (78 percent of Republicans, 28 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents).
  • Five out of 10 think cuts will be made to Medicare in order to cover more Americans (66 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of Independents).

In order of their appearance, let’s do a little mythbusting ourselves:

  • Wait times – Arguable. As government controls more and more of the payment decisions, resources could become more scarce and wait times may increase as a result.  That certainly has been the experience in Canada and the UK, two systems which Obama lauds as models for rational health-care delivery.  Wait times and accessibility have gotten so bad in Canada that the state-run system has had to contract with private-sector providers in the US to alleviate the problem (and to avoid the political consequences of it).
  • Government will get directly involved in health-care decisions – Reality.  What do people think Obama means when he says the new system will prevent Tonsil Vultures and Foot Rustlers from enriching themselves at our expense?  The ObamaCare initiative explicitly calls for comparative-effectiveness management of treatment, which means that government will seek to influence treatment … and non-treatment.  “Maybe she should just take a painkiller” is an explicit call for government involvement in those decisions.
  • Tax money for abortions – Reality.  Even the Annenberg folks admit that.
  • Health care coverage for illegal immigrants – Myth, at the moment.  The House bill currently has a restriction on federal funding for “undocumented aliens” (Section 246): “Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.”
  • Public option will increase premiums – Reality.  In fact, the entire idea of the exchanges is to force insurers to meet a standard of coverage that some plans do not now supply, for various reasons.  That will force premiums up across the board, especially if “community rating” rules get applied.  Maine’s DirigoChoice boondoggle proved this rather clearly.
  • Medicare cuts to finance ObamaCare – Reality.  In fact, Obama himself proposed $313 billion in Medicare cuts, including the virtual elimination of Medicare Advantage.  How anyone can call this a “myth” even in scare quotes is beyond me.

Instead of clucking their tongues at how Americans buy into ObamaCare myths, perhaps the media might start looking at how the American people have begun to see through the myth of ObamaCare.  The polling suggests that the scales have begun to fall to the roadside.

Update: Heritage disagrees with me on illegal immigrant coverage being a myth.  They argue that the bill does not provide for enforcement of Section 246, which is a good point — but it doesn’t really provide for any explicit enforcement of its myriad provisions, using that metric.  The bill does explicitly disallow coverage for illegal immigrants, which gives the basis for enforcement, assuming it survives to the final version.


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