Health Reform Fact Checks Fall Short On Dispelling Angry Myths
A fact check of a dozen often-repeated claims by politicos and interest groups finds that the truth appears "to be taking a vacation," CQ Politics reports. Of the 12 claims, CQ concludes that only one is true, six are misleading and five are downright false. Among the false claims are those suggesting that the government plans to ration care, create a mandate for employers to enroll workers in the public plan, and require individuals to draft living wills that could lead to euthanasia, and that existing plans would not increase the federal deficit. The sole legitimate claim: individuals would have to pay a 2.5 percent income tax if they choose to go without insurance (McCarthy and Armstrong, 8/23).
News media have effectively dug into the legislation and issues of health reform rather than leaning on the "neutrality of quoting dueling antagonists. But even when they reported the facts, they have had trouble influencing public opinion," writes the Washington Post's media columnist, Howard Kurtz. Many of the claims made by political operators and activists have been perpetuated despite similar articles that attempt to debunk them. "[T]he healthy dose of coverage has largely failed to dispel many of the half-truths and exaggerations surrounding the debate." Some of the outrage propelling mistruths is "unfocussed or simply" anti-President Obama (Kurtz, 8/24).
One reason news reports that attempt to debunk and reveal aspects of the health reform debate so often fall flat, allowing claims like the suggestion that reform would create "death panels" to resonate, is that the anger of reform critics reaches beyond health care. Conversations with white voters "suggest more is brewing in the nation's troubled soul than a debate over the mechanics of health care reform," the San Jose Mecury News reports. "The recession has savaged whites and middle-aged men to a degree unseen in most people's lifetimes. And that has helped make many in those groups desperately, angrily anxious about change."
"'Some of it is not about health care, let's face it,' Richard Czik, former vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, told the Mercury News. 'Some of it has to be about an obvious rejection of Obama's legitimacy as president. You wouldn't get this anger, represented by the hate-mongering you see. Some of it is directed against the president, with some pretty deep-seated attitudes'" (Swift and Richman, 8/22).