Monday, August 10, 2009

Fact Checking Obama's "Reality Check" website on Obamacare

From John Boehner's office, here are the claims and the fact checking that refutes them:

CLAIM: If You Like It, You Can Keep Your Health Care Plan.

Kavita Patel, who works with Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, said “if you like your insurance, if you like the kind of health care you have right now and the plan you have, you can keep it.” She also stated that “the notion that the government will interfere with what you have…really is laughable.” Linda Douglass of the White House Office of Health Reform also played a clip of President Obama’s June 23, 2009 press conference where he stated that: “If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing. You keep your plan. You keep your doctor. If your employer is providing you good health insurance, terrific, we're not going to mess with it.”


That’s simply not true. Both the Associated Press and ABC News have already debunked this pledge, noting that White House officials have acknowledged the president’s rhetoric shouldn’t be taken “literally.” An independent study conducted by the Lewin Group predicted that 114 million Americans may be forced out of their current health care coverage, including more than 106 million Americans who currently have employer-provided health care. The point is, this White House cannot guarantee that Americans will be able to keep their plan – because they don’t know how many employers are going to drop their coverage altogether if their plan goes into effect.

Lastly, the Wall Street Journal noted in a July 20, 2009 editorial:

“The House bill says that after a five-year grace period all Erisa [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] insurance offerings will have to win government approval—both by the Department of Labor and a new ‘health choices commissioner’ who will set federal standards for what is an acceptable health plan. This commissar—er, commissioner—can fine employers that don’t comply and even has ‘suspension of enrollment’ powers for plans that he or she has vetoed, until ‘satisfied that the basis for such determination has been corrected and is not likely to recur.’ In other words, the insurance coverage of 132 million people—the product of enormously complex business and health-care decisions—will now be subject to bureaucratic nanomanagement.”

: Reform Will Benefit Small Business – Not Burden It.

Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers stated that, “The facts are very clear. The system doesn’t work for small businesses now, and reform is very much aimed at easing the burdens, making it easier for this crucial sector of our economy.”


A broad coalition of job-creating groups – representing small businesses to homebuilders and manufacturers – has come together to oppose the Democrats’ government takeover of health. In a letter to Congress, this coalition wrote: “We are specifically concerned with a proposal to mandate that employers either provide health insurance or pay a new eight percent payroll tax. The House ‘pay or play’ proposal is even more troublesome because employers are also mandated to pay the majority of employee premiums. Exempting some micro-businesses will not prevent this provision from killing many jobs.”

And the National Federation of Independent Business
(NFIB), representing small businesses across the country, also weighed in, saying it would destroy jobs and reduce access to affordable health care: “NFIB opposes the [Democrats’ bill] because it threatens the viability of our nation’s job creators, fails to increase access and choice to all small businesses, destroys choice and competition for private insurance and fails to address the core challenge facing small businesses – cost.”

: Medicare Will Not Face Cuts Under Democrats’ Plan.

Robert Kocher of the National Economic Council repeated president Obama’s claim that “nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits.”


New York Times rebuts this claim: “To help finance coverage for the uninsured, Congress would squeeze huge savings out of Medicare, the program for older Americans and the disabled. These savings would pay nearly 40 percent of the bills’ cost. The legislation would trim Medicare payments for most services, as an incentive for hospitals and other health care providers to become more efficient. The providers make a plausible case that the cutbacks could inadvertently reduce beneficiaries’ access to some types of care.” An independent analysis of the House Democrats’ government-run plan shows the legislation slashes Medicare to the tune of $361.9 billion. That means fewer choices and lower health care quality for our nation’s seniors – exactly what then-Senator Obama blasted last fall, during the presidential campaign.


  1. I just thought I'd mention what my wife and I have done to cut the cost of health care.
    We are in our 60's and self of the most unfortunate groups of all. Our Blue Shield premiums are $920 per month. Our deductible is $4000 for me and $4000 for my wife.
    (I understand that is pretty standard for folks at our age and with our health conditions)
    So before I can get a dime of help from my insurance policy I have to spend $15,000 per year out of pocket on medical bills and premiums.
    Needless to say we try not to use the medical system in the US unless we have to.
    Over the last 5 years we've started going to Thailand for our medical checkups, dental care and medical needs.
    Almost every November we hop on a plane and head to Bangkok where we check in a private hospital called Vejthani. Airfare can vary from $800-$1200 round trip depending on what class you fly. But even taking that into consideration...we really save a lot
    There are a lot of hospitals in Bangkok that cater to Americans..the best known is called Bumrungrad Hospital which was featured in the "60 minutes" episode. (more expensive but still cheap by us standards)
    Many Private hospitals in Thailand put my local US hospital to shame.
    The care is excellent, equipment brand new and the cost...just a fraction of what I would have to pay out of pocket in the US. For example, last November I had an Endoscopic balloon dilation for a condition known as dysphagia. The specialist in the US said the operation would cost me $2500. (His bill for the 15 minute consultation was $250.) I decided to wait until I got to Thailand
    This time I had it done at a public hospital in Bangkok called Chulalongkorn Hospital...cost $100 including biopsy, (all I needed for ID was my US passport. No questions asked!!)

    I have to keep my US insurance in case I have a heart attack or get hit by a bus. Otherwise I would like to drop my health insurance here and just rely on the Thai medical system.

    Anyway, that's my solution to the health care problem.

  2. Hamster, you're resourceful. My family and I are in a similar situation -- self-employed, middle-aged, and having to pay for health insurance ourselves. To have the kind of coverage I had as an employee (COBRA) costs $1,500 a month. We've opted for Humana, which for $350 a month has a $10K annual deductible. That's not health insurance, that's house insurance, if that. In addition, they are ruthless in declaring "pre-existing conditions" as a way to avoid coverage. I read where they declare birth defects a pre-existing condition unworthy of coverage. And if you ever took any kind of medication before you went on the plan, that's a "pre-existing condition," which means they won't count any costs of the medication or treatment of the condition toward the deductible, or pay for any coverage of it.

    It's horrible.

    We've gotten jobs in Turkey, and will be leaving in September. The main lure of the jobs (besides the exotic location and the opportunity to travel on someone else's dime) is that health care is fully paid for, a $15,000 value for us.

    It's kind of sad that health care in the richest country in the world has deteriorated to the point where citizens have to go abroad to get the basics. But that's where we are. Perhaps Bubba can address this issue on his blog.

    Meanwhile, I read the AP article he linked to. It's a distortion to say the President guarantees that employees will not ever have to change health plans. Of course no one can predict what particular companies are going to do. What Obama is saying is that the health insurance reform proposal he supports does not require workers to change plans. If they like the coverage they have, they can keep it.

    It's true that in the long run some employers and employees may decide that the public option is a better deal.

    The article quotes MIT's Jonathan Gruber, a leading health economist. He said Obama's promise shouldn't be taken as a sign that Americans will be able to keep indefinitely the same coverage they have now.

    "With or without reform, that won't be true," said Gruber. "His point is that the government is not going to force you to give up what you have, but that's not to say other circumstances won't make that happen." He predicts only a small share of employers will drop coverage, and they will use the money they would have spent on premiums to give raises to their workers.

  3. Hamster, are you a US citizen who is an ex-pat resident of Thailand?