Saturday, September 06, 2014

A Few Links to Dispel Conservative Myths, Part One: Obamacare

I've been discussing politics with liberal friends since I was a kid. But it's only been since I joined facebook that I've debated facts and political philosophy with conservatives. It's been quite an experience. Most arguments follow the same flow chart:
I. Conservative friend begins with a false claim, such as: "Single-payer health care can never work. It's bankrupting the countries that have it."
II. I respond with the facts, accompanied with web links. For example: "Not true. Countries with single-payer spend far less per capita than the US."
III. Conservative friend then responds in one of three ways:
     A. Dismiss any and all facts I link with the statement, "I refuse to believe left-wing web sites and/or the "lamestream media.""
     B. "Joe you're too stupid for me to argue with."
     C. Conservative friend turns into a WWII veteran suburban father lecturing his lazy hippie son. "Single-payer can never work because it's something for nothing! You need to realize that every bum has to pull his own weight!"

Maybe it's pointless to keep linking conservatives to actual facts. But I like to think it's possible for a little light to shine through the curtain of ignorance and prejudice from time to time. So here's Part One: a catalog of links to facts to counter the most common conservative myths, misconceptions and outright lies about the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Part One. Obamacare Myths
Myth: Obamacare has caused health care premiums for most Americans to skyrocket.
Fact: 80% of Americans get health insurance through their employer or a government program. Under Obamacare, U.S. employers are experiencing the smallest increases in health care costs in 15 years.

Myth: "There are less people today with health insurance than there were before this law went into effect." - Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner
Fact: By March of 2014, nearly 10 million previously uninsured people gained insurance thanks to Obamacare. The percentage of uninsured Americans is now the lowest on record, having fallen from 18% in 2013 to 13.4% in mid-2014.

Myth: Obamacare will explode the federal budget deficit.
Fact: In 2010, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated Obamacare will reduce the deficit by $143 billion through 2019, and an additional $1.3 trillion (that's trillion with a "t") between 2020 and 2029. In 2014, despite some changes in implementation of the law, the CBO confirmed, "the agencies have no reason to think that their initial assessment that the ACA would reduce budget deficits was incorrect."

Myth: Obamacare will cause the cost of individual health care policies to skyrocket.
Fact: Health insurance premiums rose 4% for family coverage in the first year of Obamacare. That was half the 8% average of the previous decade. Across the country, rates for a benchmark silver plan will actually go down slightly in 2015 over 2014. Furthermore in July of 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a report explaining that the Affordable Care Act has already saved consumers $9 Billion since it was enacted. The bulk of the savings was in reduced premiums. But it also included $330 million in 2013 alone of refunds to consumers when their insurance companies had engaged in the now prohibited practice of spending more than 20% of premiums on overhead.

Myth: Millions of people have lost their health insurance.
Fact: Only about 5% of Americans have non-employer provided individual plans. It's true that certain health care plans in this market are no longer available due to changes in the law. But many of these were not insurance at all, but junk plans that didn't offer real coverage.  Furthermore, Obamacare is not the reason why most of those folks who are changing plans this year are doing so. On the individual health insurance market, plans typically are sold with one-year contracts that change prices and/or benefits year-to-year. Even before Obamacare, only 17 percent of consumers in this market kept the same plan for two years or more. Fewer than one million people who previously had individual market insurance transitioned to being uninsured.

Myth: With Obamacare policies, millions can no longer see their doctor of choice.
Fact: There’s no evidence that those who had individual market policies that were discontinued ended up not being able to keep their own doctors under their new Obamacare-compliant policies. There is no data that indicates that those on plans from the new exchanges have more or less narrow networks than existed in the individual market previously.

Myth: Because Obamacare insurance plans are required to cover contraception, even for unmarried women, the taxpayers are being forced to subsidize sexual promiscuity. "What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?" "It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps." - Radio personality Rush Limbaugh, speaking on women's health advocate Sandra Fluke in 2012.
Fact: Many women are prescribed birth controls pills for non-contraceptive reasons.

Myth: Doctors are leaving the medical profession because they don't like Obamacare. There's going to be a terrible shortage of physicians.
Fact: This myth comes from the distorted analysis of a couple of dubious survey questions. One was a poll of members of a right-wing fringe group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons that largely exists to fight health care reform. The other was a Physicians Foundation survey of 13,000 doctors which discovered that 60 percent of respondents would retire today if they could as compared to 45 percent who gave the same answer before Obamacare was passed into law. They were not asked whether their feelings on retirement were related to Obamacare.

Meanwhile, in reality, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American College of Cardiology all endorsed the health care reform law. The number of primary physicians in America per 100,000 population increased from about 44 in 2010 (the year the law was passed) to 46 in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. The number of specialty physicians increased more significantly, from 60 to 65 per 100,00 population over the same time frame.

Myth: Under Obamacare policies, "You have insurance in places like U.K. and Canada, where they say, oh we cover you. But you don’t get it, because it’s rationed. That’s what’s going to happen." - Florida Governor Rick Scott
Fact: The health care law "rations" care no more nor less than the current health care system does. (The United Kingdom and Canada don't ration care either.)

Myth: Obamacare is incredibly unpopular.
Fact: It's true that slightly more people describe themselves as against the law rather than for it. However most of the folks who are against it don't have Obamacare policies. More than 70% of those who do have the policies rate them as "good" or "excellent". And despite Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, a majority of Americans want to keep the federal health care law as is, or make some changes to improve it. It's also the case that many of those who describe themselves as against the law are Democrats who feel that the law does not go far enough to reform health care. Most of the law's key provisions are very popular. In a 2012 poll, 61% of respondents favored allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. 72% of respondents wish to maintain the requirement that companies with more than 50 workers provide health insurance for their employees. 82% of respondents favored banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Myth: Republicans have a plan to replace Obamacare.
Fact: They have no plan, nor have they ever had one. I wrote about this in my last post. While Republicans have made bold talk about passing a comprehensive plan to replace health insurance for tens of millions of Americans in 2014, they are instead offering only a "messaging strategy," while quietly admitting they don't intend to do anything on the issue.

Myth: The President refused to work with Republicans on crafting the law.
Fact: The President sought compromise but Republicans refused to negotiate. Time magazine described a meeting between President Obama and congressional Republicans on health care in this way, "So, right there in the Cabinet Room, the President put a proposal on the table, according to two people who were present. Obama said he was willing to curb malpractice awards, a move long sought by the Republicans and certain to bring strong opposition from the trial lawyers who fund the Democratic Party. What, he wanted to know, did the Republicans have to offer in return? Nothing, it turned out. Republicans were unprepared to make any concessions, if they had any to make." Conservative pundit David Frum, describing the attitude of his fellow Republicans said, "the intransigence of Republican leaders had thrown away opportunities to negotiate improvements in the health bill"..."we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing."

Myth: Obamacare will kill millions of jobs.
Fact: The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that Obamacare creates jobs. The ACA will, "boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services." This, the report says, "will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years."

Myth: Obamacare is turning America into a "part-time nation" by encouraging employers to hire part-time rather than full-time so that they will not have to provide health insurance.
Fact: Private-sector employment has grown for 54 consecutive months, and, the percentage of jobs that are full-time rather than part time is rising.

Myth: The online "exchanges" for Obamacare fell dramatically short of their goals for signing up the uninsured.
Fact: The program set an ambitious goal of 7 million signups through the exchanges in the first enrollment period. The number actually signed up and paid through the exchanges in the first enrollment period was at least 7.3 million.

Myth: The President lied about the cost of Obamacare. He promised the first ten years would only cost $900 million. It will actually cost $2 billion over the next decade!
Fact: The President did suggest that the law would cost $900 million the first ten years. The Congressional Budget Office agreed, saying the expansion of coverage would cost the federal government $710 billion in the fiscal years 2015 through 2019, plus the cost in the early years before the law went fully into effect. Just recently, the CBO has lowered the $710 billion estimate to only $571 billion – the President’s $900 million estimate was actually too high! The CBO did also say that the cost of Obamacare will be $2 billion for a decade, but that's for the fiscal years 2016 through 2025.

Myth: Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." - Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin
Fact: A provision not part of the final legislation would have insured doctor appointments for seniors who wanted to discuss do-not-resuscitate orders, end-of-life directives and living wills. The visits would have been completely optional and only for people who wanted the appointments.

Myth: Democrats didn't even read the legislation before they passed it. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, "We have to pass it so we can find out what's in it."
Fact: Nancy Pelosi said, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy." And that was true. With people like Sarah Palin spreading bald-face lies to scare people, we DID need to pass the bill so that consumers could find out what's really in it.

Next time I'll be covering myths about the deficit, climate change and a lot of other things. That is, if I can even get all the conservative myths left into only one more post. Good night and good luck.

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