Green Room

Correcting misinformation about ObamaCare

posted at 10:10 am on August 11, 2009 by

Pres. Obama sounded the alarm in his weekly radio address, seeking to correct disnformation and dispel rumors about the Democrats’ healthcare proposals. There is a lot on the web about ObamaCare that seems fishy, but rather than sending bits and pieces to [email protected], I am compiling them here in several categories:

  • Misinformation from Pres. Obama about the cost of ObamaCare.
  • Let me repeat: Health insurance reform cannot add to our deficit over the next decade and I mean it.


    The bill I sign will also include my commitment and the commitment of Congress to slow the growth of health care costs over the long run.

    Pres. Obama said this one day after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office told Congress that it does not see health care cost savings in either of the partisan Democratic bills currently in Congress. Moreover, the projected $239 billion of additional deficit spending over the next 10 years may be more like $800 billion — and far more thereafter.

    Pres. Obama told the American Medical Association that:

    Making health care affordable for all Americans will cost somewhere on the order of $1 trillion over the next 10 years. That’s real money, even in Washington. But remember, that’s less than we are projected to have spent on the war in Iraq.

    That is also flat out wrong — even if you add in the cost of the war in Afghanistan. For that matter, the true cost of the Democratic bills currently under consideration in the House and Senate may be $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion, respectively—much higher than CBO’s figures.

    Pres. Obama and top Democrats have also claimed that they can bend the healthcare cost curve by promoting preventive care. Wrong. And that giving an independent panel the power to keep Medicare spending in check would save big money. Wrong again.

  • Misinformation from Pres. Obama on the doctor-patient relationship.
  • I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage — they like their plan and, most importantly, they value their relationship with their doctor. They trust you. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.

    Not even the New York Times is buying this anymore:

    These assurances reflect an aspiration, but may not be literally true or enforceable.

    The legislation does not require insurers or employers to continue offering the health benefits they now provide. The House bill sets detailed standards for “acceptable health care coverage,” which would define “essential benefits” and permissible co-payments. Employers that already offer insurance would have five years to bring their plans into compliance with the new federal standards.

    The Senate health committee bill goes somewhat further by offering an “option to retain current insurance coverage.”

    The legislation could have significant implications for individuals who have bought coverage on their own. Their policies might be exempted from the new standards, but the coverage might not be viable for long because insurers could not add benefits or enroll additional people in noncompliant policies.

    Dallas L. Salisbury, president of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a private nonpartisan group, said: “The president and Democrats in Congress are saying what they would like. Their promises may not be literally true because your health plan may change, and your doctor may no longer accept your insurance.”

    Indeed, under the House bill, as soon as anything changes in your plan — such as a change in copays or deductibles, which many insurers change every year — you’ll have to move into a qualified plan instead. Moreover, according to the non-partisan Lewin Group, under the House bill, about 83.4 million people would lose their current private insurance — a 48.4 percent reduction in the number of people with private coverage.

  • Misinformation from Pres. Obama about a government takeover of health care.
  • In his radio address, he calls this an “outlandish rumor” that is “simply not true.” In reality, Pres. Obama and a raft of his supporters have admitted that ObamaCare anticipate that it will serve as a transition to European-style socialized medicine. Quite apart from the government-run plan that would inherently engage in unfair competition with private insurers, the bills currently pending in Congress would create a Health Choices Czar imposing costly mandates (like the guaranteed issue mandate that nearly doubled insurance premiums in New Jersey), driving people into the aforementioned government-run health exchanges and interfering with our right to choose our own doctors. As Michael Kinsley — no right-winger he — asks:

    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”?

  • Misinformation from Pres. Obama about government funding abortions.
  • The president calls this one “outlandish” also, but the Associated Press begs to differ:

    Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions, a decision that would affect millions of women and recast federal policy on the divisive issue.


    A compromise approved by a House committee last week attempted to balance questions of federal funding, personal choice and the conscience rights of clinicians. It would allow the public plan to cover abortion but without using federal funds, only dollars from beneficiary premiums. Likewise, private plans in the new insurance exchange could opt to cover abortion, but no federal subsidies would be used to pay for the procedure.

    “It’s a sham,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life. “It’s a bookkeeping scheme. The plan pays for abortion, and the government subsidizes the plan.”

  • Misinformation from Pres. Obama about government-run healthcare and illegal immigration.
  • Pres. Obama further claims that it is “outlandish” to suggest that he favors providing government-run healthcare for the tens of millions of illegal immigrants currently in the US. However, Pres. Obama just said he wants healthcare reform done this year, and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants passed in 2010. Does anyone think Obama would support a law that excluded from ObamaCare anyone with illegal status in 2009?

  • Misinformation from Pres. Obama about cutting Medicaid.
  • Again, Pres. Obama says this is simply not true. But the House bill would be paid for in part by roughly $500 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Indeed, AARP supports ObamaCare because it is trading off Medicare cuts for expanded coverage that is potentially quite lucrative for AARP.

    Interestingly, Obama’s radio address did not claim that claimed Medicare cuts were outlandish. Given his prior comments on elder care, and the disturbing way the House bill conflates end-of-life counseling with cost-containment, the president might have taken the opportunity to “dispel” the notion that seniors might suffer as AARP prospers. But maybe there was only so much disinformation he could get into a single address.

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