I don’t talk much about ObamaCare even though there’s as plenty of nonsense to debunk. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) myths range from Sarah Palin’s death panels to chain emails decrying provisions that aren’t in the act that passed the Congress (but were in some other bills that didn’t pass). Despite what you might have heard in an email, there is no private army created by PPACA that will euthanize old people and turn the country socialist.
The preceding image might be the first myth surrounding the PPACA. It wasn’t proposed or written by the Obama administration.
I was lucky with health insurance. In my working years, I had a good plan through my employer. But when I looked at early retirement at age 60, the health insurance market was pretty bleak—either really expensive or really crummy. Fortunately my wife’s employer has a retiree health plan that lets us buy insurance at the negotiated rate of a large company. I don’t think a lot of folks can do that.
Because my job involved writing computer software that did medical billing, I am perhaps more knowledgeable about the complexity of health plans than average. The process is grossly unfair. The low to middle income person without health insurance subsidizes health care for the poor, and for those who have health insurance. Insurance companies pay less than half what the uninsured pay for the same services. Providers have to increases standard rates for the uninsured to make up the difference. The poor get care at the hospital emergency room whether they can pay for it or not (under the Emergency Treatment and Active Labor Act signed by Ronald Reagan). Hospitals raise rates to make up the losses for this free care, and that is disproportionately borne by the uninsured. Medical bills are the number one cause (42%) of bankruptcy in the United States (next is unemployment at 22% and irresponsible spending is only 15%). And even the insured are in trouble, since 78% of those medical bankruptcies involved people who are insured.
The PPACA itself provides fertile ground for conspiracy thinking first because hardly anyone has read its 906 pages. Is there really a tanning bed tax in it? Yes, there is, on page 902, but here are some of the myths:
- The government is taking over health care (or it’s socialism). I find it hard to justify this one. Earlier versions of the bill provided a “public option” where people could be insured by the government instead of a private insurance company—it didn’t pass. While PPACA imposes restrictions on what private insurance companies can and cannot do (to benefit consumers), health insurance remains largely private, with Medicare remaining as it is, and some expansion of Medicaid.
- Medicare benefits will be slashed. This was one of the Republican talking points in the 2012 presidential campaign. Medicare costs will be slashed through the elimination of the Medicare Advantage subsidies to insurance companies, but he benefits to recipients remain the same.
- ObamaCare means taxpayer-funded abortions. President Obama signed an executive order that clarifies language in the bill and states that tax dollars won’t go for abortions except for rape, incest and when pregnancy threatens the life of the mother.
- Many small businesses will go bankrupt rather than provide health insurance. The mandate that businesses provide health insurance (or pay a $2,000 fee) doesn’t apply to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. There are also tax credits for small businesses (under 25 employees) who choose to provide coverage, and the presumption that coverage in the new health care marketplaces will be more affordable. In any case, the mandate applies equally to comparable businesses, meaning that one doesn’t get an advantage over the other.
- Everyone will pay higher taxes to fund ObamaCare. Those folks who use tanning beds will, an extra 10% of the cost of the service. There are also higher income taxes on people making over $200,000 per year ($250,000 if married). Before PPACA, all income not from wages was exempt from Medicare taxes. Keep in mind that insured families pay an estimated $1,100 a year in extra premiums to compensate for free coverage the uninsured get in hospital emergency rooms.
- Health care will be rationed. Health care is rationed today; insurance companies have caps on what they will pay; someone with cancer or needing a heart transplant quickly learns about rationing. Under PPACA, insurance companies are actually prevented from imposing some of their old rationing schemes like lifetime limits, or unreasonable annual limits.
- Death panels. The concept here is that there is a panel that will decide whether you’re worth treating or not. There isn’t. There is a panel (Independent Payment Advisory Board) made of health professionals that will study and make recommendations on what treatments are more effective and more cost effective in general; but those recommendations have no enforceability, and they do not relate to individuals.
- PPACA increases the deficit. CBO estimates say it decreases the deficit by $230 billion over the first 10 years.
- I can go to jail if I don’t buy health insurance. There is a penalty for not buying health insurance, but the IRS is prohibited from sending anyone to jail or seizing property to collect the penalty.
- There is a 3.8% real estate sales tax to pay for ObamaCare. There is no sales tax. There is an income tax on unearned income for persons making over $200,000 per year ($250,000 if married). Income is based on profit, not the sales price of property. Before PPACA all unearned income was exempt from Medicare taxes.
- The law requires people who want public health insurance to be implanted with a microchip. This comes from a provision in a bill that never passed, creating a registry of medical devices that could be implanted, things like pacemakers.
- ObamaCare creates a private army for Barack Obama. The law creates a “ready reserve” within the public health service, but these folks aren’t military.
- People will have to start paying income tax on employer health insurance. Employers will have to start including this information on the W2, but it’s still tax exempt.
- Hospitals will be denied Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, in whole or in part, if more than five percent of hospital employees are 25 percent heavier than the generally accepted height and weight guidelines. It was just a rumor.
- Congress exempted themself from ObamaCare. Just the opposite. Congress and their staffers are required to buy insurance through the health insurance exchanges set up under PPACA.
The material in this article came from a number of sources including the League of Women Voters, FactCheck.org, the Houston Chronicle, NPR and others.