The IRS is hiring 16,500 new armed agents to enforce the individual mandate under the national health reform act. The federal government will get access to your bank account. Congress plans to make drastic cuts to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors.
These are just a few of the rumors constituents have shared with Connecticut’s Congressional delegation since the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed last month. For the record, none are of these are true.
Nothing is more important to Americans’ quality of life than health, and the care we need to keep it. Unfortunately, we have a very complicated and confusing system to deliver it. The law to reform the broken health care system is over 2,000 pages, more than most Americans are likely to read. Health care is also big business; change is very threatening to powerful interests. It is not surprising that we are seeing confusion, even deliberate misinformation, but with care and patience, we can sort fact from fiction.
Rumor: The Act cuts Medicare.
Fact: Medicare will not be cut, and will actually be much stronger under health care reform. The prescription coverage donut hole will close by 2020, preventive care will be covered, and the program’s finances will stabilize by ending the 14 percent overpayment to Medicare HMOs.
Rumor: You will lose your current coverage.
Fact: If you like the coverage you get now from your employer, you can keep it. All coverage will have to meet some common sense standards including coverage for pre-existing conditions and no lifetime caps. Needing health insurance won’t disqualify you for getting health insurance.
Rumor: Health insurance premiums and the federal deficit will go up.
Fact: Premiums and the deficit may indeed rise, but not because of this law. CT health premiums have skyrocketed in the last ten years, rising seven times faster than our incomes. That’s why we need reform. Economists predict that insurance premiums will be lower than they would have been without this law. The independent Congressional Budget Office, historically a cautious group, predicts that the Act will reduce the national deficit.
Rumor: This is a government takeover of health care.
Fact: I am an advocate who actually wishes there were more government involvement. But we lost that fight when Congress rejected the public option. This reform builds on the private system we already have. Fortunately, Connecticut passed the SustiNet plan last year that provides a public option for our state’s uninsured and small businesses. But it is just an option; if you don’t like it, don’t sign up.
These are only a few of the dozens of rumors being spread about the new bill. Some of them are true. Children can indeed stay on their parents’ policies to age 26, and their benefits are not taxed. Chain restaurants and vending machines will have to tell you the calories in their food, and insurance companies will have to spend most of your premiums on health care.
For more, go to our Web site at Connecticut Health Policy. If you hear of more rumors, let us know and we’ll help you sort out the truth.
Ellen Andrews is Executive Director of the CT Health Policy Project, a non-profit research and advocacy organization working to expand coverage to affordable, quality health care for all Connecticut residents. The Project provides policymakers with information about options for coverage and provides assistance to consumers struggling to access health care in Connecticut.