Economy

The GOP's 5 Most Absurd Lies About Health-Care Reform, Debunked

Now is the time to brush up on the facts about health-care reform so we can keep the latest crop of Republican lies from taking hold.

The newly Republican-controlled House voted 245 to 189 on Wednesday to repeal the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama. By now, it should be clear to all of us that the GOP's rhetoric about repealing health care is little more than political theater, because the party's repeal measure is almost certain to fail. Even if the measure made it through the Senate, which is still majority Democratic of course, Obama would surely veto it. Without two-thirds majorities, which the GOP doesn't have, the party would not be able to override that veto. And at any rate, Republicans haven't cobbled together the replacement part of their "repeal and replace" plan, so it's clear that even the Republicans don't think an all-out repeal is possible.

But there is still a credible GOP threat to the Affordable Care Act -- the party's plan, after the initial repeal effort surely fails, to de-fund and/or dismantle the law piece by piece. De-funding key portions of the bill could strip millions of people of the health care access they were promised and could have a negative effect on the nation's economy.

As it stands now, most Americans either support health-care reform or want to make it more progressive. So I have this to say to anyone on the left who may be worn out from years of combating right-wing lies about health-care reform: now is not the time to give up! Now is the time to brush up on the facts so you can keep the latest crop of lies -- debunked below -- from taking hold.

Lie #1: Health-care reform will kill jobs. The right has really been pushing this myth hard. They even called their repeal measure the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act," which, aside from being awkwardly worded, is a misnomer. The "job-killing" part of the name came from the GOP's blatant misrepresentation of a Congressional Budget Office report, with Republicans claiming that health-care reform could cost the nation 650,000 jobs. The Associated Press fact-checked that claim earlier this week and found that "the budget office, which referees the costs and consequences of legislation, never produced that number. What CBO actually said is that the impact of the health-care law on supply and demand for labor would be small. Most of the lost jobs would come from people who no longer have to work, or can downshift to less demanding employment, because insurance will be available outside the job."

In other words, the relatively small number of people who are expected to vacate jobs as a direct result of health-care reform will do so not because their jobs were "lost," but because people will no longer be beholden to any job they may have taken just so they could get employer-sponsored health insurance. Have you ever met anyone who got a part-time job at Starbucks, not because they wanted or needed the extra income, but because they couldn't afford health insurance on their own? Those are the people the CBO was talking about.

Here's Rachel Maddow with a more thorough take-down of the job-killing lie:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Lie #2: Health-care reform will bankrupt the country. Republicans love to argue that health-care reform is irresponsible because it will cost the nation hundreds of millions of dollars at a time of widespread economic hardship. The economy is at the forefront of many Americans' minds, and with good reason -- unemployment and poverty rates are abysmal right now. "If our constituents have to cut back, the government should have to cut back too," GOP leaders like to say. They've also released a report, which they've given the incendiary title "Obama-Care: A Budget-Busting, Job-Killing Health Care Law," claiming that health-care reform will have an overall negative financial effect on the country.

The only problem is, that claim is simply untrue. In fact, the very opposite is the case. According to the CBO, health-care reform will cut the nation's deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next two decades, while an all-out health-care repeal would increase the deficit by $230 million in a decade.

Lie #3: Health-care reform will mean the introduction of 'death panels.' This one's an oldie that recently got another turn in the spotlight, despite being deemed 2009's "Lie of the Year" by PolitiFact. I can't believe we still have to debunk this one, but we are, so let's say this all together, once and for all: There is no such thing as a death panel!

Many health-care lies are based on some semblance of truth, albeit truth that has been horribly twisted and misrepresented. But this lie is special in that it has almost no basis in reality. Death panels do not exist. They do not exist in American health care today, and they will not exist once the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. The term was invented by Sarah Palin (or, more likely, her speech writers) to describe the end-of-life care provided to Medicare patients. The lie has scared old people into thinking President Obama is deploying an army of doctors to their homes to play Grim Reaper while forcing Democrats to drop a provision that would have provided health care to terminally ill patients.

Lie #4: Health-care reform will cut Medicare payments. This is another myth that has persisted throughout the health-care reform debate. Medicare spending will not be "cut," per se, under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare spending will continue to increase each year -- it will just do so at a slower pace than it would have otherwise. In all, the law will decrease projected Medicare spending by $575 billion over a decade, largely by cutting fees to providers and private Medicare Advantage plans. (Sounds... fiscally responsible!) The 65-plus set will not see their benefits slashed. In fact, some Medicare benefits have been added.

Lie #5: 'Mandate' is a dirty word. A lot of people are still confused about what the so-called "individual mandate" included in health-care reform is exactly, so let me clear that up first: the mandate requires all Americans to have a minimum level of health insurance coverage, either though a private insurance company, an employer-sponsored plan, Medicaid or Medicare. Republicans have singled out the mandate as health-care reform's weakest link -- the element that, if killed, could undermine the "affordable" part of the Affordable Care Act. Progressive political strategist Robert Creamer explains in the Huffington Post:

[Former Republican Majority Leader Dick] Armey argues that if they can kill the mandate, the rest of the new law will fall of its own weight, since if there is no mandate -- but insurance companies can't discriminate based on pre-existing conditions -- then people who are not sick will wait to buy insurance until they are. And that, of course, is in fact a serious problem since it will drive up insurance premiums for everyone else.

The individual mandate is not a bad thing; it's just being presented as a bad thing for political purposes. We know this because many of the Republicans who are now most vociferously against the mandate were once in favor of it. As Talking Point Memo's Brian Beutler points out, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley is a prime example of this, having been a part of the "bipartisan consensus" for the mandate in 2009 but now calling the measure "unconstitutional." Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, a staunch Republican if there ever was one, was responsible for mandating insurance for Massachusetts residents when he was governor of the state.

So the next time you hear someone waxing poetic about how "Obamacare" is a job-killing, deficit-increasing government takeover of our health-care system that we shouldn't have to subsidize with our taxpayer dollars, you'll know how to respond. And if all the above points fail you, just remember the number eight -- that's the sum total of Congressional Republicans who have forgone taxpayer-subsidized health care.

Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to Change.org, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.