KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Fact-Checks Of The Bipartisan Health Care Summit

News outlets fact-check the bipartisan health care summit and provide analyses of the messaging and poll numbers lawmakers used during the six-hour event.

"Beware of politicians quoting poll numbers," The Associated Press/Los Angeles Times report. "That was one lesson from the White House health policy conference Thursday as lawmakers in both parties cherry-picked survey results, ignored contrary findings and presented public opinion, which is highly nuanced on these questions, as a slam-dunk" (Woodward and Drinkard, 2/26).

PolitiFact checked several summit statements, including President Barack Obama's claim that under his health care plan, the "costs for families (in the individual market) for the same type of coverage that they're currently receiving would go down 14 percent to 20 percent." PolitiFact rated that statement "Half True" (Farley, Holan and Jacobson, 2/25).

Politico also looked at claims on premium costs, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who "said millions of Americans who buy their insurance individually would see higher premiums under the Democratic plan." In addition, Politico reported that "Obama disputed House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's claim that employers will dump insurance when the government gets involved in the market. But Cantor is partially right. Under the bill passed by the House in November, an estimated 12 million people would lose the insurance they now get from their employers because it would be cheaper for their companies to have them buy coverage through the public insurance exchange - forcing them into a new system" (Cogan and Hohmann, 2/26).

Newsweek found "some factual missteps in the discussion." For example, "Alexander also said '50 percent of doctors won't see new [Medicaid] patients.' But a 2008 survey says only 28 percent refuse to take any new Medicaid patients." In addition, Newsweek also assesses claims on premiums, poll numbers and government health costs (Jackson, Henig, Gore et. al., 2/25).

Bloomberg analyzes Alexander's exchange with Obama over whether the health care bills would lower health care costs for Americans. "A Congressional Budget Office report, cited as source material by Obama and Alexander, contains information that each man can cite to support his statements, if they are construed narrowly. Both men left out important information from the CBO analysis" (Gaouette, 2/26). 

Meanwhile, The New York Times analyzes the messaging strategies of Democrats and Republicans. "The Democrats told insurance company horror stories, including a tale of an old woman forced to wear her dead sister's dentures. The Republicans countered with scary metaphor, likening the Democratic health care bill to the ailing auto industry. … The issues are complicated, so both sides seized simple - and at times simplistic - ways to make their case to the television audience. Mr. Obama ... repeatedly personalized the issue, making references to the letters from needy people he reads every night, his daughters' childhood illnesses, his mother's death from ovarian cancer and his own early struggles with fly-by-night insurance companies" (Stanley, 2/25).

The Wall Street Journal reports that the summit "revealed a new malady: call it anecdote-itis. Squeezed around a square table at Blair House, President Barack Obama and about 40 members of Congress scratched around for stories that would score political points. ... Unlike much of anything else in Washington, this virus appears to be bipartisan in its spread." But "Republicans had one advantage in the first-person department: Three participants at Thursday's summits were physicians, while Democrats had no doctors in the room" (Adamy, 2/26).

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