Press Release

WONK ROOM: Health Care Reform Debate Guide

Download the debate guide (pdf)

WASHINGTON, DC—As the 111th Congress considers health care reform, conservatives and their industry allies—so-called opponents of health care reform—will likely embark on a misinformation campaign about the consequences and implications of expanding access to affordable health care coverage. The Wonk Room has compiled and debunked the right wing’s most widely circulated myths about reform.

Below are some examples of health care reform myths and the realities.

· MYTH: Americans will lose their existing coverage. The Heritage Foundation charged in a recent issue health brief that, “the creation of a new public plan would result in millions of Americans losing their employment-based coverage.” [Heritage Foundation, 12/04/2008]

REALITY: Progressive proposals strengthen the employer-based system by spreading the risk and cost of insurance. An employer mandate on larger employers will encourage companies to continue providing coverage and will make the process of providing insurance more affordable by spreading the costs of insurance. A majority of large American employers would continue to provide coverage as a competitive benefit, while businesses with the fewest workers and the lowest wages would be exempt from the mandate and offered a new tax credit to purchase health insurance for their employees. [Baucus Health Plan, 11/12/2008]

· MYTH: Affordable health care reform will create a government monopoly over health care. A recent editorial in the Washington Times maintained that health reform would “reduce consumer choice and drive many private insurers out of the market, leaving all but the wealthiest Americans with little choice but to receive care from the resulting government monopoly.” The Heritage Foundation is similarly arguing that affordable health reform would “cancel private coverage and care.” [Washington Times, 11/26/2009; Heritage Foundation, 12/04/2008]

REALITY: Progressive proposals for a public plan would create real choice and real competition, with all health plans focused on delivering better care at lower costs. According to the Urban Institute, “the presence of a well-run public plan would constrain private spending, as the plans would have to compete on price.” In fact, private insurers who “offer a superior product through high levels of efficiency, satisfaction in consumer preferences and ease of access to quality medical services” will thrive in a reformed market. The presence of a well-run and effective public plan will incentivize innovation in cost containment and service delivery. [Urban Institute, 10/03/2008]

· MYTH: A new public program will only drive up health care costs and increase premiums for Americans with private insurance. Karen Ignagni, the CEO of American Health Insurance Plans, recently argued that, “a new public program similar to Medicare would exacerbate cost-shifting, which already adds $1,500, or 10 percent, to the average premium for a family of four.” [New York Times, 12/17/2008]

REALITY: A public plan will contain costs, lower premiums, and give Americans a choice of health plans—public and private. A recent analysis of the public option by the Institute for America’s Future concluded that offering a new public insurance option to Americans who lack coverage would control health care costs and improve quality by providing an important benchmark for private insurance within a reformed health care framework. Universal coverage will reduce cost shifting by getting everybody covered, and it will contain costs through investment in prevention, management of chronic care, 21st-century information technology, and research on and the adoption of effective treatments. [Institute for America’s Future, 12/17/2008]

· MYTH: Health care reform won’t save money. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard argued in a recent appearance on the Fox News Channel that affordable health care reform wouldn’t save money or improve the quality of care. “In other words, we’re going to insure all the uninsured, and they’re going to have better healthcare. In other words, you’re going to get a lot more for less. Now, does anybody who can tie his shoes believe that? I don’t think so! Come on! That’s ridiculous. We’re going to save money. There’s going to be a lot more for you, but it will cost a lot less,” Barnes opined. [Wonk Room, 12/12/2008]

REALITY: If everyone had access to affordable health care and life-saving preventive services, the system could better manage chronic diseases, end the cost shift from the uninsured to the insured, and improve efficiency. A Families USA study found that uncompensated care for the uninsured contributes an average of $922 to family health insurance premiums. As Chris Jennings has pointed out, “if people go in and out of the system you can neither prevent that problem nor can you coordinate the disease [management] well if you don’t have coverage.” [Families USA, 7/12/2005, Wonk Room, 12/12/2008]