Could Lies About Obamacare Sway the Presidential Election?
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, hangs in jeopardy this election season. If reelected, President Barack Obama will see the law through to its full implementation in 2014. Challenger Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal Obamacare on the first day of his presidency if elected, and replace it with some yet-to-be-specified alternative.
The health care law includes a number of consumer-friendly policies:
- Allowing children to stay on their parents’ health plan up to age 26.
- Banning insurers from excluding people for pre-existing health conditions.
- Expanding Medicaid for low-income families.
- Providing subsidies for consumers of moderate means who have to purchase their own insurance.
The law also contains the unpopular individual mandate, which, with a few exceptions, requires almost every American to be either covered by insurance or pay a penalty.
Obamacare represents an unprecedented expansion of federal power into the health care market, and is worthy of an ongoing debate on the role of the federal government in the lives of everyday Americans. Instead of having that debate, the reform’s opponents have lied about what is actually in the law and what the projected implementation would look like.
One of the most oft-repeated falsehoods by Obamacare’s opponents is that it loots Medicare to cover the costs of the rest of the entitlement. “It cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it,” Romney claimed during the first presidential debate. The truth is, the ACA does cut future spending in the form of payments to hospitals and doctors, but does not reduce benefits for seniors. Instead, as reality-based observers point out, it actually expands Medicare benefits.
“‘ObamaCare,’ as referred to by many, implements a number of positive changes for seniors 65 and older,” say Wesley E. Wright and Molly Dear Abshire, partners at the Texas law firm Wright Abshire, in an article on their website. “Under the ACA, eligible seniors may seek fully covered preventative care services, including annual wellness visits, mammograms and other cancer screenings, diabetes and cholesterol checks, as well as flu, pneumonia and Hepatitis B shots.”
Medicare Advantage plans will gain protections forcing insurers to actually spend premium money on health care, not bloated administrative costs, the attorneys note, and prescription drug coverage will become more comprehensive over time under the law.
“It comes as a relief that existing Medicare coverage won’t be reduced or taken away, nor will the ability to choose one’s own doctor,” the attorneys write.
Romney also claimed that ditching Obamacare is the “number one” way to reduce the budget deficit. However, repealing the law would add $109 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The presidential challenger also invoked Sarah Palin’s “death panel” image, saying the ACA “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.” The truth is that the Independent Payment Advisory Board will have the power to make recommendations for ways to save money within Medicare, but is explicitly prohibited from rationing care or restricting benefits.
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has contributed to the fabrications about the health care law. At one point, Ryan said, “If you like your health care plan you can keep it — try telling that to the 20 million people who are projected to lose their health insurance if Obamacare goes through.”
According to the CBO, the best prediction is that perhaps 3 million to 5 million people will switch from an employer-sponsored health care plan to one of the alternatives offered by Obamacare.
Ryan also claimed that “one out of six hospitals and nursing homes are going to go out of business.” In fact a Medicare official said one out of six could potentially become unprofitable if not monitored properly.
The vice-presidential candidate has also asserted that Obamacare will include taxpayer-funded abortions. The claim is false. President Obama signed an executive order affirming that the law falls under the auspice of the 1976 Hyde Amendment banning federal funding for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.