KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawmakers, Officials Distort The Facts To Support Or Oppose Health Overhaul

"Confusing claims and outright distortions have animated the national debate over changes in the health care system," the Associated Press reports. The AP lists examples:

 "CLAIM: The House bill 'may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia,' House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said July 23 .... THE FACTS: The bill would require Medicare to pay for advance directive consultations with health care professionals. But it would not require anyone to use the benefit."

"CLAIM: Americans won't have to change doctors or insurance companies. 'If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing,' Obama said on June 23 ... THE FACTS: The proposed legislation would not require people to drop their doctor or insurer. But some tax provisions, depending on how they are written, might make it cheaper for some employers to pay a fee to end their health coverage. Their workers presumably would move to a public insurance plan that might not include their current doctors" (Babington, 8/2).

In television appearances Sunday, Republicans "defended their opposition to President Barack Obama's plan for economic recovery and healthcare reform amid Democratic accusations that the GOP lacks constructive ideas," the Hill reports. Leading Democrats had called their approach "negative" and said they were not bringing any new ideas to the table. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a conservative Republican, countered that a Republican plan he and other lawmakers had introduced "would force interstate competition, that would give every family who doesn't get their insurance at work $5,000 a year to buy health insurance" (Bolton, 8/2).

Lawmakers from both parties will field-test their rhetoric this month. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said House members will sharpen their attacks on health care industries, and work to sell the public on reform plans, CQ Politics reports, adding: "Likewise, Republicans enter August energized, convinced that they are scoring points casting the Democrats' plan as a big-government takeover certain to deprive people of health care choices and kill jobs with new taxes on business" (Silvassy, 8/2).

The New York Times: Policy preferences among top lawmakers prove to be flexible, hinging mainly on whether they're in power. "On issues ranging from Senate filibusters to how to pay for health care or tax cuts to federal judges, where Democrats as well as Republicans stand depends on where they sit - in the majority or not" (Hunt, 8/2). 

An Associated Press analysis: The administration is now confronting its conflicting goals of expanding health care while making it cheaper. Obama promised not to sign a bill that raises deficits, "But even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that none of the health plans pending on Capitol Hill would control long-term spending, and that ones with the elements Obama wants would add around $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years" (Raum, 8/3).

Kaiser Health News: In a new advertisement, Conservatives for Patients' Rights argues that "health reform with a government option will 'squeeze' Americans from all directions: higher taxes, an inflated deficit, skyrocketing premiums and lousy public health coverage. But the numbers don't add up." The ad features misleading claims about tax hikes, insurance cost increases and whether people would get stuck in a government-run plan (Gold, 8/3).

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