The Firedoglake health care team has been covering the debate in congress since it began last year. The health care bill will come up for a vote in the House on Sunday, and as Nancy Pelosi works to wrangle votes, we've been running a detailed whip count on where every member of Congress stands, updated throughout the day.
We've also taken a detailed look at the bill, and have come up with 18 often stated myths about this health care reform bill.
Real health care reform is the thing we've fought for from the start. It is desperately needed. But this bill falls short on many levels, and hurts many people more than it helps them.
While details are limited, there is apparently a "Plan B" alternative that the White House was considering as recently as two weeks ago, which would evidently expand existing programs -- Medicaid and SCHIP. It would cover half the people at a quarter of the price, but it would not force an unbearable financial burden to those who are already struggling to get by.
Congress may be too far down the road with this bill to change course. But before Democrats cast this vote which could turn "ban the mandate" into "gay marriage" for the GOP in 2010, they should consider the first rule of patient safety: first, do no harm.
Myth 1: This is a universal health care bill.
Fact: The bill is neither universal health care nor universal health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office:
Fact: This bill is almost identical to the plan written by AHIP, the insurance company trade association, in 2009.
The original Senate Finance Committee bill was authored by a former Wellpoint vice president. Since Congress released the first of its health care bills on October 30, 2009, health care stocks have risen 28.35%.
Myth 3: The bill will significantly bring down insurance premiums for most Americans.
Fact: The bill will not bring down premiums significantly, and certainly not the $2,500/year that President Obama promised during his campaign.
Annual premiums in 2016: status quo / with bill:
Small group market, single: $7,800 / $7,800
Small group market, family: $19,3oo / $19,200
Large Group market, single: $7,400 / $7,300
Large group market, family: $21,100 / $21,300
Individual market, single: $5,500 / $5,800
Individual market, family: $13,100 / $15,200
(The cost of premiums in the individual market goes up somewhat due to subsidies and mandates of better coverage. The CBO assumes that cost of individual policies goes down 7-10%, and that people will buy more generous policies.)
Myth 4: The bill will make health care affordable for middle class Americans.
Fact: The bill will impose a financial hardship on middle class Americans who will be forced to buy a product that they can't afford to use.
A family of four making $66,370 will be forced to pay $5,243 per year for insurance. After basic necessities, this leaves them with $8,307 in discretionary income -- out of which they would have to cover clothing, credit card and other debt, child care and education costs, in addition to $5,882 in annual out-of-pocket medical expenses for which families will be responsible.
Myth 5: This plan is similar to the Massachusetts plan, which makes health care affordable.
Fact: Many Massachusetts residents forgo health care because they can't afford it. A 2009 study by the state of Massachusetts found that:
Fact: This bill will mandate that millions of people who are currently uninsured purchase insurance from private companies, or the IRS will collect up to 2% of their annual income in penalties. Some will be assisted with government subsidies.
Myth 7: You can keep the insurance you have if you like it.
Fact: The excise tax will result in employers switching to plans with higher co-pays and fewer covered services.
Older, less healthy employees with employer-based health care will be forced to pay much more in out-of-pocket expenses than they do now.
Myth 8: The "excise tax" will encourage employers to reduce the scope of health care benefits, and they will pass the savings on to employees in the form of higher wages.
Fact: There is insufficient evidence that employers pass savings from reduced benefits on to employees.
Myth 9: This bill employs nearly every cost control idea available to bring down costs.
Fact: This bill does not bring down costs and leaves out nearly every key cost control measure, including:
Fact: The bill was written so that most Wal-Mart employees will qualify for subsidies, and taxpayers will pick up a large portion of the cost of their coverage.
Myth 11: The bill "bends the cost curve" on health care.
Fact: "Bends the cost curve" is a misleading and trivial claim, as the U.S. would still spend far more for care than other advanced countries.
Fact: Access to the "high risk pool" is limited and the pool is underfunded. Only those who have been uninsured for more than six months will qualify for the high-risk pool. Only 0.7% of those without insurance now will get coverage, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report estimates it will run out of funding by 2011 or 2012.
Myth 13: The bill prohibits dropping people in individual plans from coverage when they get sick.
Fact: The bill does not empower a regulatory body to keep people from being dropped when they're sick. There are already many states that have laws on the books prohibiting people from being dropped when they're sick, but without an enforcement mechanism, there is little to hold the insurance companies in check.
Myth 14: The bill ensures consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to challenge new insurance plan decisions.
Fact: The "internal appeals process" is in the hands of the insurance companies themselves, and the "external" one is up to each state.
Ensuring that consumers have access to "internal appeals" simply means the insurance companies have to review their own decisions. And it is the responsibility of each state to provide an "external appeals process," as there is neither funding nor a regulatory mechanism for enforcement at the federal level.
Myth 15: This bill will stop insurance companies from hiking rates 30%-40% per year.
Fact: This bill does not limit insurance company rate hikes. Private insurers continue to be exempt from anti-trust laws, and are free to raise rates without fear of competition in many areas of the country.
Myth 16: When the bill passes, people will begin receiving benefits under this bill immediately
Fact: Most provisions in this bill, such as an end to the ban on pre-existing conditions for adults, do not take effect until 2014.
Six months from the date of passage, children could not be excluded from coverage due to pre-existing conditions, though insurance companies could charge more to cover them. Children would also be allowed to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. There will be an elimination of lifetime coverage limits, a high risk pool for those who have been uninsured for more than 6 months, and community health centers will start receiving money.
Myth 17: The bill creates a pathway for single payer.
Fact: Bernie Sanders' provision in the Senate bill does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, so no, it doesn't create a pathway for single payer.
Obama told Dennis Kucinich that the Ohio Representative's amendment is similar to Bernie Sanders' provision in the Senate bill, and creates a pathway to single payer. Since the waiver does not start until 2017, and does not cover the Department of Labor, it is nearly impossible to see how it gets around the ERISA laws that stand in the way of any practical state single payer system.
Myth 18: The bill will end medical bankruptcy and provide all Americans with peace of mind.
Fact: Most people with medical bankruptcies already have insurance, and out-of-pocket expenses will continue to be a burden on the middle class.
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