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Dems Respond To GOP Attacks On Health Care Legislation

IF YOU LIKE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE, YOU CAN KEEP IT

RHETORIC: Americans Will Lose Their Current Health Care Coverage. Republicans play on American's fears and continue to say that with reform comes loss. Senator McCain claimed that the enacting the Senate Democrats health care bill would result in "...the number of people who had coverage through an employer would decline by about 15 million or roughly 10 percent, and coverage from other sources would fall by about 8 million." Senator McConnell: "Moreover, according to details of the HELP Committee plan, a new health care exchange would result in 15 million Americans losing the employer coverage they already have-further evidence if you like what you have, you may well lose it under a government-run plan." But these attacks are baseless. Democrats and President Obama have said repeatedly that if Americans like their health insurance, they can keep it. [Congressional Record, 6/16/08]

REALITY: Americans Can Keep the Health Care Insurance They Want. The Affordable Health Choice Act does not affect Americans currently enrolled in health insurance. In fact, the Act specifically "grandfathers" in existing plans and explicitly states that changes made by the legislation don't apply to health insurance coverage that individuals are already enrolled in. And under this legislation, family members who aren't enrolled in an individual's current coverage could also enroll in that plan. [Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill, Affordable Health Choices Act, Section 131]

DEMOCRATS WILL PRESERVE CHOICE

RHETORIC: A Public Heath Care Option Will Lead to a Government Takeover. Senate Republican leaders have been lockstep in their insistence that any public health care option will lead to a government takeover of health care. Senator McConnell: "But if some in Washington get their way and enact a government takeover of health care, that is exactly what Americans can expect." Senator Hatch: "The end result would be a Federal Government takeover of our health care system, taking decisions out of the hands of our doctors and our patients, placing them in the hands of a Washington bureaucracy, and inserting that bureaucracy right between them." Senator Johanns: "Instead, the Affordable Health Choices Act is just another government takeover of the health care system." [Congressional Record, 6/17/09; 6/15/09; 6/9/09]

REALITY: A Government Takeover of Health Care is Not an Option. Senate Republicans assert that a public option will lead to a government takeover of health care - that's simply not true. As the Los Angeles Times noted, "The Obama administration's senior healthcare official Wednesday flatly rejected the idea of taking over the nation's medical insurance system, saying the federal government did not want to assume management of healthcare coverage. Kathleen Sebelius, in her first appearance before Congress since being confirmed as the secretary of Health and Human Services, said the administration wanted a 'public plan option' to encourage competition. It does not want to create a monopoly." [LA Times, 5/7/09]

DEMOCRATS' HEALTH CARE REFORM WILL INCREASE COMPETITION AND CHOICE

RHETORIC: Health Care Reform Will Decrease Competition, Limit Patient Choice. Republicans want Americans to believe that reforming health care will decrease competition in the health care marketplace and limit choice. Senator Alexander: "Well, putting a government-run and subsidized plan in competition with our private health insurance plans would be like putting an elephant in a room with some mice and saying: OK, guys and gals, compete. I think we know what would happen. The elephant would win the competition and the elephant would be your only remaining choice." In fact, the opposite is true - a public option and health care exchanges will lead to more competition in the marketplace. [Congressional Record, 6/16/09]

REALITY: Reforms Will Increase Competition by Increasing Choice. Right now, competition in the health care insurance industry is lacking. "A recent American Medical Association survey found that a single private health insurance company controlled more than half the market for insurance in 16 states and a third of the market in 38 states." By creating a national health insurance exchange, private and public health plans will directly compete for business and open up the marketplace. ["Competitive Health Care," Center for American Progress, 3/25/09]

HEALTH CARE REFORM WILL LEAD TO MORE INFORMED MEDICAL DECISIONS

RHETORIC: Government Involvement in Health Care Will Lead to Rationing. Republican leaders continue to scare Americans by continuing to say that comparative effectiveness research will lead to rationing. Senator Kyl said, "Americans want health care reform, but they don't want to experience the rationing and the ordeals that a government system would create." Senator Thune: "If the government is imposed into that particular situation, it seems to me at least we are going to have the government making more and more decisions with respect to health care: Which treatments are going to be approved; which ones are effective; which ones are cost-effective." [Congressional Record, 6/11/09]

REALITY: American Health Care Already Has Rationing, Reforms Would Help Ease the Problem. With insurance company bureaucrats deciding what types of procedures they will cover, rationing is already occurring in the health care system. And comparative effectiveness research helps doctors and patients cut down on unnecessary medical procedures and make more informed medical decisions. Republican leaders seem to be taking a page from the drug and device industry playbook, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out: "The drug and medical-device industries are mobilizing to gut a provision in the stimulus bill that would spend $1.1 billion on research comparing medical treatments, portraying it as the first step to government rationing." ["The American Prospect," Ezra Klein blog, 12/5/08; Wall Street Journal, 2/10/09]

DEMOCRATS' HEALTH CARE REFORM WILL DECREASE COSTS

RHETORIC: Health Care Reform "Could" Increase Premiums. Senate Republicans continue to assert that health care reform will lead to an increase in costs. Senator McConnell said: "On something as important to the American people as health care reform, cost and effectiveness should be a higher priority than speed....We should not be rushed into enacting so-called reforms that cost taxpayers trillions and could increase premiums to consumers." [Congressional Record, 6/18/09]

REALITY: Health Care Reform Will Lower Costs. Reforming the health care system will trim trillions in health care spending and produce significant savings for government, employers, and the American public. Just modernizing America's health care system will save over the federal government $600 billion in the next decade. With American families paying an additional $1,017 in a "hidden tax" to compensate for the uninsured, health care reform will elevate the burden on families during this difficult economic time. [Center for American Progress, 6/11/09; Commonwealth Fund, 2/19/09; Families USA, 6/28/09]

AMERICANS CANNOT CONTINUE TO WAIT FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM

RHETORIC: Health Care Reform is Moving Too Quickly. On the Senate floor, Republican leaders continue to complain about the pace of health care reform. Senator Roberts: "The refusal to release information such as this until the very last possible minute, under an unjustifiably accelerated timeline, leaving no time for Senators, let alone the American public, to examine the merits of this plan, makes me think the 'health care emperor has no clothes.'" [Congressional Record, 6/17/09, 6/16/09]

REALITY: HELP Committee Held Hearings, Walkthroughs and Markups Explaining the Legislation. With health care costs skyrocketing and the average time between health care reform efforts clocking in at nearly twenty years, Americans cannot afford to wait any longer. And as GOP senators take to the floor complaining about the pace of this legislation, they leave out the facts. The HELP Committee has held 14 bipartisan roundtables, 13 Committee hearings and 20 walkthroughs of this bill, not including the current multiple-week markup of the legislation. ["19.7," Kaiser Family Foundation, 4/16/09; HELP Committee]

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com