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The Health Reform Debate -- Myths vs. Facts

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As the health reform fight moves forward, the issues people are talking about change. While it once seemed like our biggest battle was over whether we are going to get a strong public health insurance option as part of reform, that question has now joined a host of others in the debate.

Predictably, these new arguments come with their fair share of myths that need to be pushed back on. So here we go...

Myth: Health reform will be paid for by "cutting" Medicare and Medicaid

This is the latest line trotted out by conservatives and picked up by the media, that we're going to cut Medicare and Medicaid to pay for health reform. We're not cutting Medicare or Medicaid, if by cut you mean doing anything that will lower people's benefits. We're finding savings in the program. And that's not just spin.

Here's an example: Right now, Medicaid pays hospitals a sum of money (which varies geographically) to help make up the losses they incur for treating patients that show up in the emergency room without insurance (who hospitals are legally required to treat). After health reform is passed, the number of uninsured in this country will. These payments will therefor become redundant and can be phased out, yielding savings without cutting anyone's benefits.

Myth: We're just waiting for reconciliation on health care so we only need Democratic votes to pass it

This one isn't true...yet. Right now, the Senate is still operating under regular order, which means we will need 60 votes to end a filibuster and cut off debate over a health care reform bill. (Aside: Which Senators are going to be the ones to filibuster health care? People should start asking them that.) There is, however, an October 15th deadline. If the Senate is unable to move a health reform bill under regular order, they must move one under reconciliation by October 15th. So, right now, Harry Reid and other Senate leadership are giving Republicans every opportunity to come on board and vote for real health reform. If they don't come on board, that's what reconciliation is for.

Myth: Health reform will cost too much and put a burden on families

This is the most insidious of the right-wing lies. In reality, the cost of doing nothing on health reform will bankrupt families, and reforming health care will save the average American family thousands per year.

If we don't reform our health care system and bring down skyrocketing costs, the average family will be paying almost $10,000 more per year for health care by 2016 than they do now. Our government will be bankrupt. And we'll spend one in every five dollars in our entire economy on health care, up from the already astronomical one in seven that we spend now. The cost of doing nothing is simply unacceptable, and those against reform are willing to bankrupt families, government and our entire country to serve their obstructionism.

Not to mention that reforming health care will reduce costs for families. According to the Commonwealth Fund [pdf], health care reform that puts everyone in, gives people affordable options, and includes a strong public health insurance option (like that proposed by the House of Representatives) would save the average family $2,228 per year.

Plus, health reform will be fully financed. In the House, it will be paid for by a combination of Medicare and Medicaid savings, a public health insurance option that saves money, and a 1% tax on those that make over a quarter of a million dollars per year.

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Even though these myths are fairly prevalent in the debate right now, there's a silver lining here. The Frank Luntz messaging that was supposed to be the GOP's silver bullet - that health care reform is a Washington takeover leading to rationed care - is largely failing to take hold. And so, we're forced to combat that latest set of conservative talking points. We'll just have to do to these points what we did to Luntz - discredit and bring the truth.

(also posted at the NOW blog)

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