PolitiFact’s biggest lie

posted at 8:40 pm on December 17, 2010 by Karl

The easy joke is that PolitiFact naming “government takeover of health care” as the 2010 Lie of the Year is PolitiFact’s biggest lie. I do not think that is true, for reasons which will become apparent below. However, there is plenty wrong with PolitiFact’s claim:

“Government takeover” conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:

Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.

• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up “exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don’t have it.

• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.

• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

PolitiFact reporters have studied the 906-page bill and interviewed independent health care experts. We have concluded it is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It’s true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.

Let’s start with the straw man that “a ‘government takeover’ conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees.” By this measure, there has been no government takeover of healthcare in countries like France or Switzerland. Even in England, most doctors, dentists, optometrists and other providers of local healthcare are self-employed, and contract their services back to the NHS. If PolitiFact wants to invoke the “European approach” to healthcare, it might help if they could accurately describe it.

Next, PolitiFact relies heavily on the fact that people — most Americans — will continue to be insured by private insurers. However, the government is projected to outspend the private sector on health care by 2012, before ObamaCare is even phased in — and as the government becomes the dominant purchaser of health care in America, it will surely have control above and beyond that legislated. Moreover, as Michael Kinsley (founding editor of Slate, which PolitiFact relies upon as an authority) asked about ObamaCare:

If the government requires insurers to accept all customers and charge all the same price, regulates all aspects of their marketing to make sure they aren’t discriminating, and then redistributes the profits to make sure that no company gets penalized unfairly, in what sense is the industry still “private”?

It’s an inconvenient point PolitiFact chooses not to address, but it gets worse:

The [law's] rules governing medical loss ratios—which determine what percentage of an insurance company’s operating budget can be devoted to administrative costs and profit—were set at the maximum threshold at which the Congressional Budget Office would decline to include the cost of private insurance premiums in its cost estimates; crossing that threshold would have made the bill far more expensive. Currently, the ratios are set at 80 percent for the small group market and 85 percent for the large group market, meaning that insurers must make certain that either 80 or 85 percent of their budgets are spent on “clinical services.” Those ratios are as high as they can be while still leaving insurers some semblance of independence; if nationwide MLRs were set even a single point higher, according to the CBO, health insurance would constitute “an essentially governmental program.”

In other words, in the CBO’s view, the new health care law walked right up to the government-takeover line, but didn’t technically cross it.

Considering that any definition of a medical-loss ratio is inherently arbitrary, the fact that the Democrats gamed a judgment by the CBO is hardly conclusive of whether the private health insurance market should be considered (in the words of the CBO) “an essentially governmental program.”

PolitiFact places weight on the notion that ObamaCare lacks a government-run insurance plan. PolitiFact overlooks that most of the expansion of coverage in ObamaCare comes from sticking an estimated 16 million people on Medicaid — where recipients fare worse or no better than those who have no insurance at all. If MassCare is any indicator (and ObamaCare defenders love to compare it to RomneyCare), some of those new Medicare clients will be people dumped from employer-provided coverage. Indeed, ObamaCare immediately had employers planning to dump retirees in to Medicare (and those without the political juice to get a government waiver may yet dump them). The lack of a new government-run plan does not change the expansion of the already existing government health plans.

Then there are those “independent health care experts” PolitiFact consulted. One of them is “Princeton University professor Uwe Reinhardt, an expert in health care economics.” PolitiFact leaves out his $2,300 donation to Barack Obama. Here’s a bit more of the wit and wisdom of Uwe, to give you a flavor of how impartial he is on the subject of government-run healthcare.

Next up is Jonathan Oberlander, “a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.” Oberlander is in fact a political scientist who has written a great deal on the politics of the health care issue — which makes him about as much of an expert as I am. (At least Uwe Reinhardt has a Ph.D in economics.) Oberlander’s opinion that a single-payer government financing of health care is not “socialized medicine” tells you what his politics are.

PolitiFact also quotes Maggie Mahar, author of Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much. Well-known among those who follow the issue as a market-hating health care expert, I am not exactly shocked that she told PolitiFact what PolitiFact so obviously wanted to hear. PolitiFact neglects to mention that Maggie Mahar is a fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. (They also fail to mention that Mahar’s educational background is in English literature.)

In contrast, PolitiFact dismisses the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute as conservative groups repeating a “lie” [Aside: Cato is libertarian, but we must all look alike to PolitiFact]. Thus, PolitiFact chose not to seek the advice of any experts affiliated with those groups, like Cato’s Michael Cannon, who argues that ObamaCare is a government takeover of the health care system. The closest to a Republican, let alone conservative, in PolitiFact’s interview list is Gail Wilensky, who coincidentally goes unquoted by PolitiFact.

The point here is not that PolitiFact’s claim is a lie, or that PolitiFact is biased (although the latter is fairly obvious). Rather, the point is that the question of whether ObamaCare is a government takeover of the healthcare system is one of political opinion, not a simple question of fact. Indeed, the difference in opinion between those whom PolitiFact labels as liars and the CBO is a percentage point or so.

Accordingly, PolitiFact’s Biggest Lie is the one left unstated — that a political judgment call can be easily labeled as a “lie” in the first instance. However, for practical reasons, I do not condemn that lie. After all, the establishment media — of which PolitiFact is a part — is still in the business of trying to manufacture consent to a center-left political narrative. PolitiFact exists largely as an attempt to deligitimize certain political opinions. We now know which political opinion most bothered the establishment in 2010. That is a valuable service to everyone.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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Oh Shoot…………..Pelosi looks like she’s been
Space Cadetted,tranqualized by Hopey no doubt!!!

canopfor on December 17, 2010 at 8:49 PM

It’s not a trojan horse, it’s just right there.

Inanemergencydial on December 17, 2010 at 8:51 PM

Excellent, Karl.

MayBee on December 17, 2010 at 8:57 PM

Its like the splc calling family research council a hate group.

PrezHussein on December 17, 2010 at 8:58 PM

“If you like your Doctor, you can keep him.”

tommylotto on December 17, 2010 at 8:58 PM

Heritage Foundation helped write Romneycare, and it calls Obamacare a different government take over.

Seems like people who equate the two are doing a little lying themselves.

PrezHussein on December 17, 2010 at 9:01 PM

“Government takeover” conjures
================================

a Nightmarish Progressive Liberal
TakeOver……

canopfor on December 17, 2010 at 9:08 PM

Slightly OT. Re the pix: Nancey’s face sure looks like Wayne Newton’s. How much plastic is in there? FDA needs to examine if Botox causes dumbness.

Dingbat63 on December 17, 2010 at 9:08 PM

Thanks to fifty-two percent of America’s illiterate and ignorant, I get to pay nearly forty percent more in insurance premiums compared to last year.

Thank you democrats. Your undying compassion and concern warms my bones.

Inanemergencydial on December 17, 2010 at 9:09 PM

Karl this pretty good. Pretttttty preeettttttty… pretty good.

wowrob on December 17, 2010 at 9:10 PM

Another lie is PolitiFact referring to the bill as only 906 pages.

anXdem on December 17, 2010 at 9:12 PM

PrezHussein on December 17, 2010 at 9:01 PM

Not sure where you were going with that point, but Robert Moffitt outlines the differences between Heritage’s proposals an O-care.

Karl on December 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM

FDA needs to examine if Botox causes dumbness.

Dingbat63 on December 17, 2010 at 9:08 PM

No it doesn’t cause dumbness, it only enhances what is already there.

belad on December 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM


“If you like your Doctor, you can keep him.”

tommylotto on December 17, 2010 at 8:58 PM

+ 1000

Or how about “TRANSPARENCY”

stenwin77 on December 17, 2010 at 9:15 PM

I saw this earlier today and the impression I was left with, was that Politi”Fact” (used loosely) is a biased leftwing hack. This isn’t the first time they’ve played politics with “lie of the year.”

The “real” lie of the year, is Obama and democrats repeatedly making reference to “the mess the Republicans got us into” regarding the economy.

Obama has repeated this lie over and over and over again and never challenged on it, yet the record shows clearly that Republicans (Including Bush) warned repeatedly of the impending doom of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac going back years before it finally collapsed in 2008 and the democrats did nothing to “reign” them in. In fact, they proposed that Republicans were racists and bigoted for even suggesting a problem back in 2006.

Politi”Fact” hasn’t an ounce of credibility and should be ashamed of fabricating a lie to cover up something so truthful as “government takeover of healthcare,” because that’s exactly what it is.

I swear, liberals have no morals or values. They probably lie to their own children…the ones they didn’t actually murder through abortion.

BruthaMan on December 17, 2010 at 9:15 PM

“We have to pass it…

… so you can see what’s in it!”

Seven Percent Solution on December 17, 2010 at 9:16 PM

“We have to pass it…

… so you can see what’s in it!”

Seven Percent Solution on December 17, 2010 at 9:16 PM

That is a valid argument when talking to your doctor about your stool.

Inanemergencydial on December 17, 2010 at 9:24 PM

PrezHussein on December 17, 2010 at 9:01 PM

Not sure where you were going with that point, but Robert Moffitt outlines the differences between Heritage’s proposals an O-care.

Karl on December 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM

Trying to walk-back Romneycare, maybe?

CTSherman on December 17, 2010 at 9:26 PM

Accordingly, PolitiFact’s Biggest Lie is the one left unstated — that a political judgment call can be easily labeled as a “lie” in the first instance. However, for practical reasons, I do not condemn that lie. After all, the establishment media — of which PolitiFact is a part — is still in the business of trying to manufacture consent to a center-left political narrative. PolitiFact exists largely as an attempt to deligitimize certain political opinions. We now know which political opinion most bothered the establishment in 2010. That is a valuable service to everyone.

It may be a valuable service, but it’s still a lie.

Anyone remember the old saying that you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts?

Politifact and factcheck.org exist to make that statement a lie. They want to be the final word on what are facts.

And the bottom line is, it takes more than calling yourself “factcheck” or “politifact” to be able to make that claim that you are the authority on the facts.

It’s just propaganda by another name, and more dishonest than most by wrapping it up in claims of being “above the fray” and factual.

tom on December 17, 2010 at 9:30 PM

BruthaMan on December 17, 2010 at 9:15 PM

Yeap…

Seven Percent Solution on December 17, 2010 at 9:31 PM

Didn’t someone on the left, in Congress…admit….outright…that Obamacare was a path to single payer? I don’t remember who said it…but it was said.

That pretty much debunks Politifacts entire accusation of “lie”. Does it not?

capejasmine on December 17, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Obamacare was specifically designed to eventually destroy the private health care industry and force everyone into the Democrat dream of single payer.

Politifact either didn’t read the bill or they have a reading comprehendion problem on top of a severe case of economic illiteracy.

Their dishonesty seems to be the only fact they’ve proved.

RadClown on December 17, 2010 at 9:48 PM

One of my patients and her husband came in the other

day. He’s given me jazz about conspiracies, Boosh, 9/11,

my fee schedule, cost of services and whatnot.

Mostly I’ve been good natured about his verbosity cause

he’s still a likeable guy. This time I said to him about

half-way through his diatribe, “Shyte, you’re either

watchin too much Jesse Ventura, or Chris Matthews,

which is it?”

I pressed on and our further dialogue kinda got to him,

when I asked him, “Since you’ve been a union guy, I know

you’ve been long at the trough, so why do you still think

you’re entitled to something no one else has?

Are you owed a better lifestyle now that you’re

retired just because you sucked up to the union bosses?”

His wife just smiled and he hung his head, kinda

mumbling (but, it could have been foam) and followed her

out the door.

I may have lost a patient and future income, but guess

what?

I DO NOT CARE.

Call it what you may. I quit tryin’ of be PC a long time

ago just to get a fat stack. I don’t take every person that

calls me for an appointment and I’ve quit seeing walkins

without a referral.

Now, I simply will not be employed by or contracted through the Feds – hosers that they are.

And the entire insurance industry and legal profession can kiss my spotted ass.

I will give my patients the treatment they require to be well, in spite of you.

OkieDoc on December 17, 2010 at 10:32 PM

I read seveal pages back into “Politifacts” lie list – it became clear that they’re congenital liars, proclaiming themselves arbiters of the truth.

It’s pretty damned sickening, actually. Bastards.

Merovign on December 17, 2010 at 10:42 PM

FDA needs to examine if Botox causes dumbness.

Dingbat63 on December 17, 2010 at 9:08 PM

No it doesn’t cause dumbness, it only enhances what is already there.

belad on December 17, 2010 at 9:13 PM

Maybe there’s some sort of “homing beacon” effect in stupid that draws botox to it.

Lourdes on December 18, 2010 at 1:46 AM

This kind of thing only gets traction if we let our guard down.

The left will keep trying until they are victims of the Death Panels themselves to spin that Bill as a good thing.

We must be as relentless in repealing it.

And then we must address the issue in a liberty loving way.

petunia on December 18, 2010 at 2:04 AM

I read seveal pages back into “Politifacts” lie list – it became clear that they’re congenital liars, proclaiming themselves arbiters of the truth.

It’s pretty damned sickening, actually. Bastards.

Merovign on December 17, 2010 at 10:42 PM

That should be the wiki definition of Liberals. And Democrats.

petunia on December 18, 2010 at 2:05 AM

Great article Karl but:

Even in England, most doctors physicians, dentists, optometrists and other providers of local healthcare are self-employed

Dentists are doctors.

dentalque on December 18, 2010 at 7:04 AM

This creeping liberal slime is like and insidious cancer that can’t be stopped.

rplat on December 18, 2010 at 8:12 AM

In the lead in picture, it appears that the Botox is wearing off Rep. Pelosi, so she had better make her last public appearance.

MSGTAS on December 18, 2010 at 10:06 AM

I think that Polifact is CORRECT.

OBAMACARE IS NOT REALLY A GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER.

IT’S ACTUALLY AN “ALIEN TAKEOVER”. The idea is so alien to traditional American principles.

So get over it.

After all, Polifact is nothing but Polyf*ckedup!

TheAlamos on December 18, 2010 at 10:28 AM

They’ll use a multi-pronged approach to take over health care.

Use their regulatory power to harass clinical facilities… whatever it takes… fire inspections, health inspections, etc…

Lower reimbursements to levels that the various providers cannot provide quality care.

Then they’ll pounce and cut a deal to keep the providers in business and it’ll be a takeover.

roux on December 18, 2010 at 10:32 AM

I e-mailed politifact back when Sarah Palin made her famous “Death Panel” statement. They voted it the biggest lie of the year.I read their comments about her statement and it was based on a totally false premise. Just like the MSM they tried to make the case that she was talking about the end of life counseling program. This was totally false. I mentioned the part where she said that she and her Down syndrome son would have to appear before the death panel and he would not get treatment because he was not a productive member of society. They responded that they would look into my claim. They are a left wing nut house.

inspectorudy on December 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM

dentalque on December 18, 2010 at 7:04 AM

Fair enough. Unfortunately, I can’t edit this version.

Karl on December 18, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Didn’t someone on the left, in Congress…admit….outright…that Obamacare was a path to single payer? I don’t remember who said it…but it was said.

That pretty much debunks Politifacts entire accusation of “lie”. Does it not?

capejasmine on December 17, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Barney Frank said something along those lines in connection with the “public option.”

Insomniac on December 18, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Oh, almost forgot – great post, Karl!

Insomniac on December 18, 2010 at 4:42 PM

I wrote about this yesterday (http://www.carolinajournal.com/mediamangle/display_story.html?id=7197) and agree with everything in the post. I also noted their other “lie,” that Michelle Bachmann made the “claim” that Obama’s India trip was going to cost $200 million per day. As most readers of conservative blogs know, this was not “her claim,” but was an actual news report from a reputable news organization in India. That they made a mistake in reporting does not mean Bachmann lied, but this is typical of liberal fact-checking sites.

rivlax on December 18, 2010 at 6:29 PM

capejasmine on December 17, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Vice-President Joe Biden, in an interview with Jake Tapper, March 18, 2010:

“You know we’re going to control the insurance companies.”

But most of all, check out the entire video put together by the Naked Emperor, and posted here on HotAir by Ed Morrissey on 08/04/2009 (the second video embedded in that post) which including specific comments made by Barack Obama on several occasions in the past, including him specifically saying back in 2007, “But I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process … I can envision a decade out, or 15 years out or 20 years out,” and also listen to Barney Frank saying that “if we get a good public option it could lead to single payer …” and especially note the comments of Jean Schakowsky, from back in April of 2009 . . . listen to her quoting the insurance company representative about Obamacare being the path to single payer: Says she to the cheers of supporters, He was right. The man was right!”

Yep.

PolitiFact’s claim that the phrase “government takeover” is the biggest lie of the year, is indeed itself the biggest damned lie of the year!

Trochilus on December 18, 2010 at 7:44 PM