THE BLOG

Countering the Lies about Health Care Reform

09/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

All across the country, the opponents of health care reform are spreading misinformation about President Barack Obama's proposals to improve health care coverage for all Americans. We shouldn't be surprised about that. The insurance companies, the right-wing radio hosts, the K-Street lobbyists and the Republican leadership who are spreading the misinformation have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. They are willing to lie to protect industry profits.

It is troubling to see that so many well-meaning citizens are listening to the lies and believing them. One has only to watch a handful of angry questioners at some televised town-hall meetings to know that some of these questioners are good people who are troubled by what they are hearing. They want to know the facts. But all too often, they are denied answers by the right-wing rabble that eschews the truth by shouting others down.

That's wrong. The opponents of health care reform are pulling out all the stops to kill the reform that millions of Americans need to improve our health care. They're spreading falsehoods and creating chaos. They know what they are doing. All of us need to work together to break through the lies and shouts and slurs. We need to make sure that our friends and neighbors know the truth and can separate the lies from the facts about health insurance reform.

When Sarah Palin writes that President Obama is going to set up "death panels" to decide whether her child with Down syndrome, or elderly parents, are going to live or die, she is spreading a lie. That's a disgrace and she is not alone. A few others liars need to be told to stop it, too.

Senior citizens seem to be a particular target for these liars. A lot of the mythology about health reform is designed to scare them. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was on Fox News last month saying that the president's proposals would be paid for "on the backs of seniors through Medicare cuts." That's a lie. As the Alliance for Retired Americans points out, Medicare will benefit from cost-containment across the entire health care system. Furthermore, President Obama has proposed ending the wasteful overpayments currently given to private Medicare Advantage plans. That reform will help ensure that Medicare resources benefit all Medicare participants, and are not diverted to insurance companies.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) went on the House floor to state that the GOP opponents of health care reform "would not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government." The idea that the president and supporters of health insurance reform want to put people to death is an outrageous lie. As the Los Angeles Times noted on August 10, "This has become one of the most misleading, inflammatory claims made in the health care debate, advanced repeatedly by conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Republican lawmakers working to stoke fears among seniors."

In fact, as the Times notes, under the proposal, Medicare would start to cover voluntary doctor visits to discuss living wills and advance directives for care, which would be used only if a person becomes seriously ill and unable to make medical decisions. As is currently the practice, advance care decisions would still be made by the individual. There is nothing mandatory or coercive in the proposal, which was proposed initially by Republicans in Congress.

Another lie spread across the country: the president's proposal will lead to cuts in the coverage seniors receive for prescription drugs. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said as much on July 21 when he claimed that the Democratic proposal would cause "millions of seniors to lose their coverage for prescription medicine." In fact, health insurance reform will save seniors hundreds of dollars on their prescriptions because it cuts the cost of drugs by half once they reach the Part D coverage gap. Moreover, it begins phasing in the end of the "donut hole."

It's troubling that these lies about health insurance reform are frightening senior citizens. That is an outrage. When you hear these lies, correct them. Let's make sure seniors and all Americans know the truth about health care reform and that lies are spread to block real progress.