Your Bank Account Is Safe: Running Down The Latest Winger Health-Care Lie

August 11, 2009 7:57 a.m.

Another day, another metastasizing lie about health-care reform that needs debunking.

We’ve already seen the euthanasia lie — in which conservatives, including Sarah Palin, have claimed that a provision in the bill that would extend Medicare coverage to end-of-life consultations is really aimed at letting Obama kill your grandmother. But that’s old news by now.The hot new conservative health-care lie is that the bill will give the government direct access to Americans’ bank accounts at any time, which, in some variations of the lie, will then be raided to finance the legislation.

The bank accounts lie has been proliferating in recent days. A questioner at Sen. Arlen Specter’s townhall this morning asked about it. Rush Limbaugh, of course, has talked it up several times over the last week on his show. Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), speaking last week to a local right-wing radio station, called the provision “pretty Orwellian.”

Where does it come from? It appears to have its roots in an email “analysis” of health-care reform that includes various lies and distortions about the bill. (Politifact, the fact-checking site run by the St. Petersburg Times, has called the email a “clearinghouse of bad information.”) One charge made in the email is that “the federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.”

What’s the truth? The section of the legislation on which this claim is based states that the bill will “enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with the related health care payment and remittance advice.”

As Politifact points out, the bill’s legislative summary makes clear that the intent of this section is to “adopt standards for typical transactions” between insurance companies and health-care providers, and continues: “The legislation generically describes typical electronic banking transactions and does not outline any special access privileges.” In what seems like an excess of even-handedness, Politifact calls the claim made in the email “barely true.”

Media Matters adds that this is no different from setting up an automatic online bill-pay in order to pay back a student loan, calling it “completely uncontroversial, and totally not scary.”

Not that we’re expecting any of the people actually disseminating this lie to be interested in the truth. But it’s worth understanding where these things come from.

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