Consumer finance site WalletPop.com (a division of AOL) is one of many media outlets attempting to come to terms with the new health care law. Here are the top ten health care myths and their corresponding realities:
Myth 1: Health care rationing. Health care is already effectively rationed by insurance companies who deny claims and cancel policies. The new law actually helps prevent such practices by making it illegal for a company to deny coverage to a sick patient.
Myth 2: Death panels. Death panels were never part of any incarnation of the bill, but opponents coined the term in an attempt to frighten people. At one stage, the bill included coverage for optional advance care planning, whereby patients could discuss with their doctors their preferences regarding ventilators, feeding tubes and other life-sustaining measures. The provision was removed from the bill.
Myth 3: Health care reform will increase taxes. Only individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and couples earning more than $250,000 per year or those with high-premium insurance plans will see tax increases. The former group will see taxes rise from 1.45 to 2.35 percent. Members of the latter group with plan premiums more than $8,500 for an individual or $23,000 for a family will face the increase.
Myth 4: It’s nationalized care. The single-payer plan, which is often called “nationalized” health care, was ruled out early in the debate. The law provides for state-based American Health Benefit Exchanges and Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges. These exchanges will include private insurance options, which will be administered by either governmental or non-profit agencies. Through these exchanges, individuals can purchase coverage in a more competitive market, which will lower premiums.
Myth 5: It’s socialized medicine. At no time was socialized medicine, such as can be found in Russia or China, discussed. This myth echoes similar falsehoods circulated before Medicare was passed in 1965.
Myth 6: The government can’t do anything right, especially health care. Medicare is a government-run program, and most seniors are quite happy with it. Veterans also receive their care through the government-run Veterans Administration, which some believe to be among the best care available.
Myth 7: Patients will have no choice. Employer-plan choices will remain the same and individual-plan choices will be more comprehensive. The law provides the choice of four benefit tiers: bronze, silver, gold and platinum, each of which covers a larger percentage of costs. Patients may choose the type of coverage and which private insurer to purchase coverage from.
Myth 8: Physician wages will be set by the government. Doctors will remain in private practice, free to charge what they like.
Myth 9: Medicare will be cut. The Commonwealth Fund found that the law “would strengthen the program by reducing costs for prescription drugs, expanding coverage for preventive care, providing more help for low-income beneficiaries and supporting accessible, coordinated, and comprehensive care that effectively responds to patients’ needs.”
Myth 10: People will lose their private insurance. The purpose of the law is not to replace existing private insurance. The proposed government insurer, which would have competed with private insurance companies, was removed early on in the process. The law simply limits out-of-pocket costs and prevents patients from being dropped because of illness. If patients are unhappy with a current insurer, they may change to a competing insurer and purchase coverage through one of the national exchanges.