Wednesday, September 22, 2010

White House Myths vs. Facts

In anticipation of tomorrow’s six-month benchmark since the health care law was signed, the White House has launched a new website designed to “sell” the law.  Included on the site are a list of “myths” about the measure that the White House seeks to respond to.  Unfortunately, however, the website propounds statements that some would view as a selective interpretation of the law.  Here are the White House’s supposed “myths,” along with the REAL facts:

MYTH:                  Health insurance reform will use my tax dollars to fund abortions.

FACT:                    The law specifically permits taxpayer subsidies to flow to private health plans that include abortion, but creates an accounting scheme designed to designate private dollars as abortion dollars and public dollars as non-abortion dollars—provisions that pro-life groups have denounced as an accounting sham.  Moreover, the new national plans run by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) have zero restrictions on coverage of elective abortions—an unprecedented expansion of abortion coverage, when the coverage OPM currently provides to federal employees,  including Members of Congress, prohibits coverage of elective abortions.

MYTH:                  Seniors will not have access to Medicare Advantage plans.

FACT:                    According to the Medicare actuary, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is projected to fall in half between now and 2017.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that seniors who remain in Medicare Advantage will lose an average of $816 in benefits each year.  And just yesterday, the Administration announced that nearly one million seniors will be forced to change Medicare Advantage plans – and thousands of seniors will lose access to Medicare Advantage altogether.  The non-partisan has previously called Administration advertising on Medicare Advantage “misleading” for suggesting that benefits for seniors in Medicare Advantage will remain the same.

MYTH:                  Reform will cut Medicare for seniors.

FACT:                    The Medicare actuary found that provisions in the law will cause as many as 40 percent of Medicare providers to become unprofitable over time, meaning that “providers would have to withdraw from providing services to Medicare beneficiaries.”  As a result, “Medicare beneficiaries would almost certainly face increasingly severe problems with access to care.”

MYTH:                  Health reform will lead to massive tax increases and kill jobs.

FACT:                    The health care law imposes more than half a trillion dollars in tax increases—including tax increases on families with incomes under $250,000.  The law also includes job-killing taxes on businesses that cannot afford to purchase health insurance, which the Congressional Budget Office found “will probably cause some employers to respond by hiring fewer low-wage workers.”  Moreover, the CBO also recently concluded that the health care law could prompt about 750,000 individuals to leave the work force, because provisions in the law “will effectively increase marginal tax rates, which will also discourage work.”

MYTH:                  You will be forced to purchase insurance you can’t afford.

FACT:                    According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums for individual market insurance will rise by an average $2,100 per family—far from the $2,500 reduction in premiums that candidate Obama promised.  Moreover, the law requires insurance subsidies to grow more slowly beginning in 2019—meaning that individuals will be forced to purchase coverage they cannot afford, or subsidy levels will need to be increased, thus raising the federal deficit.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently characterized the subsidy reductions as “widely expected” to be scaled back or “difficult to sustain for a long period”—precisely because it would require individuals to pay for coverage they cannot afford.

MYTH:                  Businesses will suffer under health reform.

FACT:                    The bill imposes more than $210 billion in new payroll taxes that could hit small business owners, and $107 billion in taxes on drug and device manufacturers and insurers—taxes which “would be largely passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums for private coverage,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Small business owners will be disproportionately affected by the health care law’s new tax on insurance companies; because larger firms that self-insure their workers are exempted from the tax, smaller businesses will pay the lion’s share of this levy.  In addition, the law imposes 20 new insurance mandates, each of which could raise insurance premiums on small businesses by one to three percent.

MYTH:                  The small business credits won’t actually provide relief.

FACT:                    Unfortunately, the benefits provided by the tax credit are limited in scope and duration, but the costs of the law are permanent and wide-reaching.  An estimate developed by a paid Administration advisor found that only 3.4 million workers—only 1.1% of the American population—are in firms that will actually receive the credit between now and 2014.  While the credit expires after six years, many small business owners will be subject to a new, permanent 3.8% Medicare tax beginning in 2013—on top of the largest tax increase in American history scheduled to take effect this January.  In other words, the health care law imposes permanently higher taxes on small businesses, so that only 1% of Americans can receive a temporary small business tax credit.

MYTH:                  This bill does nothing to bring down the cost of health care.

FACT:                    According to the Medicare actuary, health costs would actually increase over the next decade by a total of $310.8 billion.  And the Congressional Budget Office recently concluded in its long-term budget outlook that most of the major savings proposals in the health care law either are “widely expected” to be scaled back or would “be difficult to sustain for a long period,” thus leading to significant increases in federal deficits.

MYTH:                  The new law extends coverage to illegal immigrants.

FACT:                  Despite the law’s purported prohibition on payments to immigrants not lawfully present, and the insertion of a citizenship verification regime, the provisions do not require individuals to verify their identity when confirming eligibility for subsidies—encouraging identity fraud while still permitting undocumented immigrants and other ineligible individuals to obtain taxpayer-subsidized benefits.

MYTH:                 Health reform will lead to a government takeover of health care.

FACT:                    By one count, the health care law creates 159 various boards, bureaucracies, programs, and commissions.  A report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service suggested this number may actually be an under-estimate, as it concluded that “the precise number of entities that will be created…is currently unknowable.”  And as of last Friday, the Administration had already released 4,103 pages of regulations—and counting—to implement the 2,700 page law.  If that’s not a government takeover of health care, what is?