More Republican Myths About Health Care Reform

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The Republicans in Congress and their allies–people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, and Ann Coulter–and countless people hired by FreedomWorks and the Heritage Foundation and others to attend rallies and try to disrupt free speech, and yet others whose job it is to send out massive mailings to scare senior citizens are all creating additional health care myths. We have dispelled some, but here are yet others.

Myth Number One. Health care is best left to the individual states.

Truth: States do not have the long-term fiscal capability to run programs that are uniform across the country. While states have run their own programs, because of differing state constitutions, fiscal policies and the need to balance state budgets, the management of a uniform program that would work across all states would be impossible. The goal of universal health care is to deliver the same health care anywhere in the country.

Myth Number Two. A better system is simply to offer a flat tax credit to all citizens to buy health care insurance.

Truth: Tax credit proposals have been suggested and health savings plans, which involve tax breaks really do not address the problem. The problem is that, even with a tax credit, poeple would still need to purchase, at the minimum, expensive catastrophic insurance. No matter how you rationalize it, i.e., whether you buy low cost regular health insurance or you buy catastrophic insurance, you will pay more than the tax credits that you receive. But the more important points are that a. this does nothing to control rapidly escalating costs, and b. you have no control over whether or not you can actually rely on the health insurance you purchase.

Myth Number Three: Americans do have access to health care in that they can go to a doctor and pay directly and if, serioiusly ill, they cannot be denied service in an emergency room.

Truth: This is true. But it is not rational. For example, if a family is not wealthy, emergency room costs are the most expensive way to deliver medical services. And using the emergency room is not efficient, which is dangerous. It overloads emergency rooms, which are not designed for general medical service to a large population. Waiting until it is necessary to go to an emergency room is often the reason many people fall into serious financial problems, because emergency room services are hugely expensive compared to regular clinical services.

Myth Number Four: That a public option means that Americans will now have “socialized medicine” which would be bureaucratic and violate free enterprise aspects of our political philosophy.

Truth: A public option involves health insurance that will be paid directly to the government rather than to an insurance company. The service itself, like Medicare, is administered by doctors and nurses and medical technicians in the same way as private insurance. The other argument, that it will be so much better than private insurance that people will switch out of private health care. If private health care cannot compete on service or price, then it should fail. Remember that the medical services will be the same. The only difference is to whom you pay your premiums. Health insurance companies do not provide services. They handle administration of the health care delivery, as does Medicare and Medicaid. Because you have a vote, you can improve your medical services if it is a public plan. When the VA had some problems years ago, voters threatened their representatives and the system was properly funded and now it is a model of efficiency.

Myth Number Five: Malpractice insurance premium rates are escalating because of excessively high and malicious malpractice lawsuit awards encouraged by greedy lawyers.

Truth: While some malpractice liability awards can be quite high, the incidence of malpractice suits is not. Moreover, studies by the government GAO and the FAIC have shown that not only are malpractice awards not correlative to premiums charged, but premiums charged are more connected to insurance investment losses and lack of competition. When one company forces out another company in a state–malpractice insurance is sold and regulated state-by-state–or when company investments fall–insurance companies naturally try to compensate, insofar as possible within the regulatory framework, by raising rates. In general, malpractice lawsuit awards, as well as DCC (defensive measures, such as the cost of legal staffs, court costs, etc.) are slightly more than one dollar of every one hundred dollars of premium.