President Obama's Falsehoods About Health Care Reform

 

Michael T. Griffith

2009

@All Rights Reserved

 

Like many of you, I watched President Obama's speech to Congress a few days ago (Wednesday, September 9) regarding health care reform. The concerns that President Obama labeled as "myths" and "distortions" are not myths and distortions at all, but are based on the major health care bills now pending in Congress, especially the House bill, HR 3200. For example:

 

-- Section 102(A), p. 16 of HR 3200 outlines requirements that many experts estimate would cause at least 80 million people to lose their private health insurance. Among other things, Section 102(A) says the following concerning which private plans could be kept after the government plan took effect:

 

Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term “grandfathered health insurance coverage” means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 [Year 1] if [note the 'if'] the following conditions are met [so you can keep your private plan if the following conditions are met:]

 

LIMITATION ON NEW ENROLLMENT.— (A) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1. . . .

 

LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS.—Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day be fore the first day of Y1. (HR 3200, Section 102[A])

 

Now, if we take this wording at face value, it means you could only keep your private health plan (1) if the company did not enroll anyone else in such coverage on or after the first day the government plan took effect, and (2) if the company made no discretionary changes to the terms and conditions of your plan, including changes to benefits and cost-sharing, on or after the first day the government plan took effect.

 

Furthermore, Section 102(C), p. 19 of HR 3200 stipulates that when the bill is enacted, anyone who does not already have private health insurance would be prohibited from buying a private plan unless the plan were accepted as a participant in the government health insurance exchange, even if they liked their plan and wanted to keep it.

 

Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan. (HR 3200, Section 102[C])

 

So if you liked your plan and wanted to keep it, tough luck, unless the plan were accepted as a participant in the government health insurance exchange.

 

The Heritage Foundation makes the following points about the effect Obama's health care plan would have on private plans:

 

1.Millions Will Lose Their Current Insurance. Period. End of Story: President Obama wants Americans to believe they can keep their insurance if they like, but research from the government, private research firms, and think tanks shows this is not the case. Proposed economic incentives, plus a government-run health plan like the one proposed in the House bill, would cause 88.1 million people to see their current employer-sponsored health plan disappear.

 

2.Your Health Care Coverage Will Probably Change Anyway: Even if you kept your private insurance, eventually most remaining plans--whether employer plans or individual plans--would have to conform to new federal benefit standards. Moreover, the necessary plan "upgrades" will undoubtedly cost you more in premiums.

 

3.The Umpire Is Also the First Baseman: The main argument for a "public option" is that it would increase competition. However, if the federal government creates a health care plan that it controls and also sets the rules for the private plans, there is little doubt that Washington would put its private sector "competitors" out of business sooner or later. (http://www.heritage.org/Press/FactSheet/fs0036.cfm)

 

The Lewin Group estimates that HR 3200, since it would use the Medicare payment rates and open up the plan to all employees, could result in up to 113.5 million people losing private coverage (http://www.lewin.com/content/publications/June25TestimonyUpdate.pdf).

 

Section 101 of HR 3200 would disqualify as a valid health insurance policy any plan that did not meet the requirements the government would establish regarding coverage, benefits, and consumer protection.

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR QUALIFIED HEALTH BENEFITS PLANS.—On or after the first day of Y1, a health benefits plan shall not be a qualified health benefits plan under this division unless the plan meets the applicable requirements of the following subtitles for the type of plan and plan year involved.

 

(1) Subtitle B (relating to affordable coverage).

(2) Subtitle C (relating to essential benefits).

(3) Subtitle D (relating to consumer protection). . . . (HR 3200, Section 101[B])

 

So I wonder how President Obama can say it's "misleading" to argue that the proposed health care reform legislation would harm, if not eventually destroy, private health insurance.

 

-- President Obama adamantly denied that his plan would cover illegal aliens. This is an astounding denial. In committee votes in both the House and the Senate, the Democrats voted down every single amendment that would have required proof of citizenship for someone to receive government-subsidized coverage, and they did so with the full support and blessing of the White House.

 

In addition, HR 3200, along with all other plans that Democrats have proposed, does not allow care providers to request proof of citizenship.

 

The Democrats did much the same thing with the SCHIP bill (State Children's Health Insurance Program) that President Obama signed: they removed the provision that allowed care providers to request proof of citizenship but kept the language that said the program was for U.S. citizens. In other words, yes, on paper it's supposed to be for U.S. citizens, but no doctor, nurse, hospital, or clinic is allowed to ask a patient for proof of citizenship. This allows Democrats to deceptively say the care is supposed to be only for U.S. citizens, when they know they've omitted or removed any requirement for recipients to show proof of citizenship.

 

-- President Obama's claim that his health care plan would merely compete with private plans--such as the way state colleges compete with private colleges--is just plain absurd, given the fact (1) that state colleges are heavily subsidized with taxpayer money, and (2) that Section 221, p. 116 of HR 3200 would allow the federal government to set the benefit and coverage levels for all competing private health insurance policies.

 

Just imagine if state colleges were able to set the entrance and curriculum requirements, as well as the tuition rates, for all private colleges. Nobody would seriously argue that this was fair competition. Similarly, just imagine if a government health plan could set the benefit and coverage levels for all competing insurance companies. This is exactly what HR 3200 would allow the federal plan to do. This would allow the government to rig the playing field and undercut private insurance plans.

 

As Dr. Robert Moffitt notes,

 

. . . it is hard to imagine a 'level playing field' where Congress creates a special government plan to compete against private health plans while also creating the rules for its competitors. (http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm2515.cfm#_ftn2)

 

-- Equally disturbing is President Obama's strident denial that the Democrats' health care reform would lead to "death panels." Surely President Obama knows that HR 3200 would establish a “comparative effectiveness” regime (Section 1181).

 

The Secretary shall establish within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality a Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research (in this section referred to as the ‘Center’) to conduct, support, and synthesize research (including research conducted or supported under section 1013 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003) with respect to the outcomes, effectiveness, and appropriateness of health care services and procedures. . . . (HR 3200, Section 1181)

 

Anyone who has followed health care implementation knows that “comparative effectiveness” has proven to be a nice way of saying "cost effectiveness," which is the same set-up that has been used to deny expensive care to seniors in England and Canada. For this and other reasons, the American Seniors Association (ASA) has sounded the alarm about this provision:

 

Obamacare, no; targeted reforms, yes
http://www.americanseniors.org/pages/PressOnMedia.aspx?Images=%2fimages%2famerican_financial_products.jpg&PageView=Shared

 

See also ASA president Stuart Barton's editorial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

 

Will health care reform hurt American senior citizens? Yes. Proposals will lead to rationed care, limiting options for seniors. http://www.ajc.com/opinion/pro-117747.html

 

U.S. News & World Report has published an article on this provision, noting that it's identical to what has been used in England to deny costly care to seniors:

 

Our friends across the pond, where most healthcare is government run, use both approaches, and their cost of care and negotiated prices for expensive drugs are far below ours. The most developed and respected comparative-effectiveness program resides in Great Britain, where the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, or NICE, does the heavy lifting in assessing a therapy's value and setting standards of care. Its pronouncements guide what the country's health system, the National Health Service, offers patients. Treatments that don't justify their high cost are nixed or limited—rationed, by another name. Breast cancer patients were denied Herceptin, for example, until enraged women fought back. ("Comparative Effectiveness," http://health.usnews.com/blogs/heart-to-heart/2009/03/18/comparative-effectiveness-is-obama-really-calling-for-rationing.html)

 

The most detailed article on this point is the Heritage Foundation's paper titled “Comparative Effectiveness in Health Care Reform: Lessons from Abroad” (http://www.heritage.org/research/healthcare/bg2239.cfm).

 

And, as President Obama surely knows, the Democrats voted down every single amendment that would have prohibited the government from using comparative effectiveness (i.e., cost considerations) to deny care. Let me repeat this crucial point: In both the House and the Senate, the Democrats voted down every single amendment that would have prohibited the government from denying care based on cost.

 

In addition, President Obama has called for an “Independent Medicare Advisory Council” that would, among other things, seek to contain costs and to guide decisions concerning the “huge driver of cost,” which he identified as “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives. . . .” Such statements have raised huge red flags among senior citizens. Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and the Republican nominee for Vice President in 2008, makes a cogent point about the President's proposal:

 

Now look at one way Mr. Obama wants to eliminate inefficiency and waste: He's asked Congress to create an Independent Medicare Advisory Council—an unelected, largely unaccountable group of experts charged with containing Medicare costs. In an interview with the New York Times in April, the president suggested that such a group, working outside of "normal political channels," should guide decisions regarding that "huge driver of cost . . . the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives . . . ."

 

Given such statements, is it any wonder that many of the sick and elderly are concerned that the Democrats' proposals will ultimately lead to rationing of their health care by—dare I say it—death panels? (“Obama and the Bureaucratization of Health Care,” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574400581157986024.html)

 

This is why concerned citizens and members of Congress have voiced concern that Obama's plan would lead to government bureaucrats denying expensive care to seniors, in effect creating "death panels." This is not a "distortion" or a "scare tactic"--it's a concern that's based on the Democrats' own votes, on President Obama's own comments about Medicare cost-cutting, on the language of the House bill itself, and on what has happened in England and Canada.

 

-- Oddly, President Obama cited the Congressional Budget Office to support his plan, arguing that his plan would save money. Yet, the CBO has sent mixed signals about the economic impact that Obama's plan would have on health care costs and the budget. In July, the CBO declared, "In CBO's judgment, the probability is high that no savings would be realized." And, as Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute notes,

 

. . . the Congressional Budget Office says the current health-care bills will increase the budget deficit by at least $239 billion over the next 10 years, and far more in the years beyond that. If the new health-care entitlement were subject to the same 75-year actuarial standards as Social Security or Medicare, its unfunded liabilities would exceed $9.2 trillion. ("All Sizzle, No Substance," http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10527)

 

-- President Obama promised that his health care plan would not add one dime to the budget deficit, and that he would insist on spending cuts if it didn't pay for itself. Given his wild spending thus far, it's hard to take this promise seriously. After (justifiably) bashing President Bush for doubling the national debt and exploding the deficit, President Obama has tripled the deficit in less than seven months and has piled on debt at a faster rate than Bush did.

 

Let's remember that Obama also said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle-income Americans, but then proceeded to raise taxes on the millions of middle-income people who happen to smoke, and he is seeking to pass a huge energy tax (his cap-and-trade proposal) that would hit middle- and low-income Americans especially hard. He said he would go through the budget with a "knife," cut waste, and produce a "net reduction" in federal spending, but so far he has broken all records for piling up debt and exploding the deficit. He said he wouldn't sign a bill with earmarks, yet the first spending measure he signed contained thousands of earmarks, and the "stimulus" bill that he pushed through Congress contained thousands of special-interest pet projects. He said he'd enforce a waiting period of five days before signing any bill, so that citizens could examine the bills before they were signed, a promise he has broken repeatedly--indeed, he has tried to ram through bills before most members of Congress even had a chance to read them.

 

The Associated Press--yes, the Associated Press--just a few hours after Obama's speech published a very good critique of Obama's claims about health care reform, especially debunking his claims about the plan's economic and budgetary impact:  Among other things, the Associated Press article points out the following:

 

. . . the White House and congressional Democrats already have shown they're ready to skirt the no-new-deficits pledge.

House Democrats offered a bill that the Congressional Budget Office said would add $220 billion to the deficit over 10 years. But Democrats and Obama administration officials claimed the bill actually was deficit-neutral. They said they simply didn't have to count $245 billion of it — the cost of adjusting Medicare reimbursement rates so physicians don't face big annual pay cuts.

 

Their reasoning was that they already had decided to exempt this "doc fix" from congressional rules that require new programs to be paid for. In other words, it doesn't have to be paid for because they decided it doesn't have to be paid for. . . .

 

Studies have shown that much preventive care — particularly tests like the ones Obama mentions — actually costs money instead of saving it. That's because detecting acute diseases like breast cancer in their early stages involves testing many people who would never end up developing the disease. The costs of a large number of tests, even if they're relatively cheap, will outweigh the costs of caring for the minority of people who would have ended up getting sick without the testing.

 

The Congressional Budget Office wrote in August: "The evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall." (“Obama Uses Bad Math on Healthcare Costs,” http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/obama_healthcare_costs/2009/09/10/258303.html)

 

-- Another curious argument was President Obama's complaint about the lack of competition among insurance companies in several states. Yet, President Obama opposes allowing the sale and purchase of health insurance across state lines, even though virtually all analysts agree that this one reform would produce huge savings, would lead to greater competition, and would break the grip that some insurance companies enjoy in certain states.

 

Why does the President oppose this badly needed reform? Perhaps because it would enable the free market to reduce the cost of health care insurance and would remove one of the arguments for government intervention? His opposition to this commonsense reform is baffling, especially given his rhetoric about the need for more competition in the health insurance industry.

 

-- As for President Obama's claim that savings from his health care reforms and from Medicare reform would largely pay for his plan, most people recognize this as sheer fantasy talk. So the same government that has created and overseen the staggering waste and fraud that everyone admits exists in Medicare is magically going to clean up Medicare and save money in other areas of health care as well? Anyone who believes that tale should inquire about ocean-front property in Kansas.

 

-- President Obama repeatedly stressed that the status quo is unacceptable. No one is saying we should just do nothing and leave things exactly as they are. It's just that President Obama opposes all market-based, non-interventionist solutions and then turns around and accuses his critics of merely wanting to maintain the status quo.

 

He complains about a lack of competition but won't support ending the absurd government prohibition against selling health insurance across state lines. He talks about reducing costs but won't support ending the ridiculous government coverage mandates on insurance companies, which make it impossible for them to offer low-cost plans tailored only to what the individual wants to be covered for. He says he's open to tort reform but will do no more than allow a very modest tort-reform pilot project to go forward in a few areas--he refuses to include any meaningful tort reform in his health care plan, even though the cost of unjustified medical malpractice lawsuits runs into the billions each year (this is great for the trial lawyers, most of whom supported Obama, but bad for everyone else).

 

-- More broadly, President Obama is ignoring the fact that every single other government-run health care system, from England to Canada to Cuba, has led to rationing, mediocre care, long waits, and a weakening or destruction of private medicine.

 

He is also ignoring the cost issue: Can anyone name just one major government program that has not produced huge cost overruns? In Massachusetts, the state-run health care plan has already cost more than double what it was projected to cost, even though it's less than ten years old. Medicare has exceeded its initial cost projections many times over, to the point that Medicare's own administrators warn that Medicare is facing over $30 trillion (that's "trillion" with a "t")--$30 trillion--in unfunded liabilities.

 

Moreover, the President is ignoring the fact that unreasonable government regulations are a major reason that health care is so expensive now. The government regulation that bans the sale of health insurance plans across state lines is just one example. Many others could be cited. John Tate of the Campaign for Liberty made some good points relating to this issue in a recent Campaign for Liberty newletter article:

 

President Obama has repeatedly stated that we cannot deal with the rising cost of health care by maintaining the status quo. I wholeheartedly agree.

 

We must acknowledge that the root cause of the health care crisis in this country is government interference. Of course, many in the insurance industry have taken full advantage of their lobbying power and monopolies, but they have been able to do this because of the government.

 

It is government that prohibits individuals from being able to shop across state lines for insurance.

 

It is government that imposes thousands of mandates on insurance providers.

 

It is government that created HMOs in the 1970s.

 

It is government that has skewed the market to prop up third party payers.

 

Simply put, the problems with health care in America are too much government interference already. The solution is to lessen government control - not give them more power!

 

The Council for Affordable Health Insurance has identified a total of 2,133 mandated benefits and providers currently required by state legislatures, mandates they estimate increase the cost of basic coverage from around 20% to as high as possibly 50%. Read their report here.

 

If the president thinks we can pay for his plan through saving billions of dollars by eliminating waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid, then why don't we clean out those systems now and return that money through tax cuts to the American taxpayer, providing them extra funds to buy insurance if they want it? (“Obama Pushes for Government Health Control,” Campaign for Liberty E-Mail Newsletter, September 10, 2009)

 

Free Republic has published the following synopsis of HR 3200:

 

• Page 16: States that if you have insurance at the time of the bill becoming law and change, you will be required to take a similar plan. If that is not available, you will be required to take the government option!
• Page 22: Mandates audits of all employers that self-insure!
• Page 29: Admission: your health care will be rationed!
• Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)
• Page 42: The "Health Choices Commissioner" will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.
• Page 50: All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.
• Page 58: Every person will be issued a National ID Healthcard.
• Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.
• Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans (example: SEIU, UAW and ACORN)
• Page 72: All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Healthcare Exchange.
• Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)
• Page 91: Government mandates linguistic infrastructure for services; translation: illegal aliens
• Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.
• Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter.
• Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No "judicial review" is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.
• Page 127: The AMA sold doctors out: the government will set wages.
• Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.
• Page 126: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families.
• Page 149: Any employer with a payroll of $400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays an 8% tax on payroll
• Page 150: Any employer with a payroll of $250K-400K or more, who does not offer the public option, pays a 2 to 6% tax on payroll

 

For more information, see the following sources:

 

All Sizzle, No Substance

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10527

 

Five Major Faults with the Health Care Bills

http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/wm2599.cfm

 

The Public Health Insurance Option: Unfair Competition on a Tilting Field

http://www.heritage.org/Research/HealthCare/bg2311.cfm

 

AARP Doesn't Deliver

http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=33392

 

Socialized Healthcare vs. the Laws of Economics

http://mises.org/story/3586

 

ObamaCare's Crippling Deficits

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203585004574393110640864526.html

 

Five Freedoms You'd Lost in Health Care Reform

http://money.cnn.com/2009/07/24/news/economy/health_care_reform_obama.fortune/

 

Obama's Lies Matter, Too

http://www.reason.com/news/show/135976.html

 

CATO Institute health care experts dissect Obama's claims point by point

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-1ZfFBMf8s

 

Obama and the Bureaucratization of Health Care

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203440104574400581157986024.html

 

What's Scary About Healthcare Reform?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-oped0816chapmanaug16,0,1666314.column

 

The President Learned Nothing from August

http://blog.heritage.org/2009/09/10/morning-bell-the-president-learned-nothing-from-august/

 

Americans for Legal Immigration Takes Issue with Obama's Lie About Health Care for Illegal Immigrants

http://www.mmdnewswire.com/illegal-immigrant-health-care-5716.html

 

Know Your Health Care Reform Propaganda

http://www.campaignforliberty.com/blog.php?view=23690


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Michael T. Griffith holds a Master’s degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military University, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.  He also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.  He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas.  In addition, he has completed an Advanced Hebrew program at Haifa University in Israel.  He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith.