Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
Editor's note — An occasional look at statements by public officials and how well they adhere to the facts.
WASHINGTON — The tumultuous health care debate that brought you death panels and socialism has spun off a catalog of popular myths that will keep growing as President Barack Obama and all sides battle toward the midterm elections this fall.
At a White House signing ceremony Tuesday, Obama ventured the hope that Americans on all sides will judge the legislation for what it actually says and does. "When I sign this bill," he declared, "all of the overheated rhetoric over reform will finally confront the reality of reform."
Wishful thinking, Mr. President.
Facts are stubborn, the saying goes. But myths about the legislation are likely to persist as well. And a lot of people don't agree on which is which.
"People have taken away from the debate a number of beliefs about the bill that are very difficult to shake based on objective reports," said Robert Blendon, a Harvard public health professor who follows opinion trends. "There is enough skepticism out there that questions about how it's going to help the country are likely to continue."
Here's a look at some of the myths and realities, from both sides of the issue:
Obama has put the nation on a slippery slope toward socialism.
Hello? Government's role in health care has been steadily growing since Medicare and Medicaid were established 45 years ago. Even if Republicans were to take control of Washington and repeal this bill, government would still be on track to pick up more than half the nation's health care tab by 2012, according to a report last month from Medicare.
"The Republican myth is that the government is for the first time going to take over the health care sector," said economist Joe Antos of the business-oriented American Enterprise Institute. "The takeover was probably largely accomplished in 1965 with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. Since the early days, Medicare has called the shots on a lot of policy issues that private insurance fell in line with."
Still, the new law will undoubtedly expand the government's influence. Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., warned Tuesday it will lead to the "quasi-nationalization of the health industry."
Underline "quasi." Democrats dropped their idea of a government insurance plan to compete with private carriers. So any "socialization" will be channeled through Wellpoint, UnitedHealthcare and other private insurance giants.
Health care overhaul is going to lower your health insurance premiums.
Obama says that once new competitive insurance markets open for business, in 2014, individuals buying coverage comparable to what they have today will pay 14-20 percent less. Family coverage costs about $13,400 a year, so that could be real money.
But the president's assurance is based on a selective reading of a Congressional Budget Office report that found most individuals would probably buy better, more expensive coverage than what's available today.
And Obama skips over an important caveat: The budget office didn't say premiums would be lower than currently. It said premiums for some people would be lower than they would have been without the bill. Premiums for others would be higher.
With the U.S. population getting older, and medical science pushing the technological envelope, there's very little reason to think premiums will go down. The best Obama can hope for is to slow the pace of increases.
You will be forced to pay for other people's abortions.
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