Inside Obama's Health Care Plan

The Facts of the Health Care Debate
ESSENCE.COM Aug, 28, 2009

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This summer is make-or-break time for health care reform, and the debate is intense. A number of falsehoods, from lawmakers to ordinary citizens, are making it tricky to know what’s true and what’s not. ESSENCE.com combed through some of the most persisting myths to bring you the facts.

By Cynthia Gordy

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Q: Will the health care reform bill require Grandma to face a hospital “death panel” to determine whether or not she can receive end-of-life care?

A: NO. Let this one go, folks. None of the bills being considered by Congress mention any such panel. The House bill provides access to counseling and information on end-of-life decisions from medical practitioners, but only if families choose to pursue it.

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Q: Is health care reform going to be paid for by raising my taxes?

A: Cutting costs in the federal budget will help pay for covering all Americans, but revenue will also have to be generated. In the House bill, however, the surtax applies to only the highest earning 1.2 percent of Americans, whose joint income exceeds $350,000 per year.

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Is health care going to be rationed under health reform? Will I be able to get the medicine and procedures I want?

A: Insurance companies ration care all the time right now, deciding which treatments you can and cannot receive. President Obama’s plan would actually eliminate many current practices that lead to rationing—it would prevent providers from canceling coverage if you get sick and ban annual and lifetime limits on coverage.

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Q: Are we about to see a government takeover of health care that will crush private insurance?

A: As the President’s oft-repeated refrain goes: If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance. But he also supports a government-run health option to compete with private insurers, inspiring them to reduce overhead costs and increase care. While nobody would be forced to change their insurance, however, it’s possible that some employers would choose to drop their coverage and pay a fine.

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Q: Will a government-run plan mandate that taxpayer money pay for abortions?

A: Nothing in any of the legislation mandates abortion coverage. The House bill includes an amendment that prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortions, and under current laws federal money cannot be used to fund abortion services. None of the proposals in Congress prohibit private insurers from covering abortions, as they do currently.

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Q: Is reform going to provide health insurance for illegal immigrants?

A: No health care proposals include covering undocumented immigrants. In fact, the House and Senate bills specifically exclude them from receiving insurance. Illegal immigrants would, however, still be eligible for emergency room treatment.

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Q: Are kids with disabilities going to be denied coverage under health care reform?

A: This myth continues to spread for some reason (hello, Sarah Palin), but it’s false. President Obama’s plan seeks to eliminate discrimination by not allowing insurance providers to turn down anyone with a pre-existing disability or health condition.

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Q: Isn’t health reform going to totally undercut seniors by cutting Medicare benefits?

A: The President has proposed cutting waste and inefficiencies in Medicare—such as billions of dollars in overpayments to private insurers—but not benefits. He says these savings would not affect patient care, and it will make Medicare more stable and secure.

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Q: This is America! Why is President Obama pushing the single-payer systems they have in Canada and Europe?

A: The President has actually rejected a single-payer system like Canada’s, which involves one government-run organization that finances and collects fees for health care. He prefers instead to leave in place the private health care system we have now, and build on it with a public option to fill in the gaps. This also differs from some European health systems in which the government owns health clinics and employs doctors.

What are your thoughts on the President’s health care plan?

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