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Persisting Myths About Health Care Reform

Persisting Myths About Health Care Reform

What are the most persistent myths about the Affordable Care Act?

The answer to this question depends on who is asking and who is answering the question.

So many myths have persisted for so long that it’s a challenge to separate what might seem to be a truly crazy myth (such as the act contains death panels—which it does not) from what just continues to be a common myth (such as the act will increase the deficit—and current estimates show it could actually decrease the deficit).

No One Is Saying Grandma Must Die

There are no death panels in the Affordable Care Act but the myth seems to have staying power because it was recently repeated on national television.

But even before the myth was repeated, many Americans already believed it, as a poll showed earlier this year.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent organization providing health news and analysis, reported in March that 40% of Americans and 35% of senior citizens believed incorrectly that the ACA allows a government committee to make life and death decisions about Medicare recipients.

In truth, there are no death panels and no one is calling for the death of grandma.

At the end of 2009, PolitiFact, a website that rates political falsehoods, awarded this myth the Lie of the Year award.

Repeated Myths Persist

Other myths that seem to persist include a belief that the ACA creates a government-run health plan.

The Kaiser survey in March found that a majority of Americans (57%) incorrectly believe this myth.

In fact a so-called “public option” was proposed in early draft versions of the ACA but was later dropped, Kaiser reported.

Kaiser also found that about half (47%) of those Americans responding to its spring survey believed in the myth that the law would allow undocumented immigrants to get tax subsidies to help them buy health insurance.

But, in fact, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for such financial assistance.

Keep Your Plan and Your Doctor?

Most of the 80% of Americans who have employer-sponsored health care will keep their plans and their doctors.

But other Americans may not be as lucky.

The Washington Post reported that some 7 million to 12 million Americans, who currently get their health insurance on the individual market, meaning they do not have employer-sponsored coverage, could get cancellation notices from their health insurers.

The claim that you can keep your doctor is a myth, too, and for similar reasons.

Again, the 80% of Americans who have employer-sponsored coverage are likely to keep their doctors. But anyone choosing a narrow network health plan and anyone whose plan is canceled may need to find a new doctor.

Will the ACA Increase the Deficit? CBO Says No

One last myth to address is the health law’s effect on the deficit. This common prediction is based on the fact that the government offers tax subsidies to entice uninsured individuals to enroll.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) previously estimated that the ACA would reduce the deficit by $109 billion.

Then, in early December, The New York Times reported CBO estimates showing Medicare spending in 2020 would be $137 billion lower than previously believed, due in part to the ACA.

Also, Medicaid costs would be lowered by $85 billion and even private health insurance premiums would drop by 9%, the Times said.

One Final Question To Ask

So, the question to ask is this:

What have you heard about the ACA that you can’t tell is fact or fiction?

Photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns is a freelance writer and editor in Falmouth, Mass., who writes about health policy and the business of health care for Managed Care magazine, Hospitals & Health Networks, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. He also writes about health insurance for the Association of Health Care Journalists and blogs about health care, the environment, and other topics at