There they go again. Conservatives are already trying to demagogue Senator Obama’s health care plan. No sooner has Obama become the presumptive Democratic nominee then they have dusted off their playbook for trying to kill health reform. Their number one tactic? Fear-mongering.
In a Washington Times op-ed by the disinformation crew at the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, conservatives tipped their hand: try to convince people that the big bad government is going to take over health care. Never mind the truth.
As they prepare to launch an anti-health reform campaign, CMPI’s op-ed (oh so cleverly titled “Obamacare,”) implies that Obama would enroll everyone in Medicaid and SCHIP:
Rather, Mr. Obama plans to make Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expansion the foundation of his proposal to expand coverage.
In reality, Obama’s plan would expand both private and public insurance options and make coverage more affordable. As more and more employers drop coverage, Obama would extend public insurance options to lower and middle class Americans, strengthening the existing safety-net of coverage for those who would otherwise become uninsured. His plan would also provide sliding-scale assistance to help families purchase comprehensive private coverage.
But the op-ed suggests that these public health programs offer limited access to care and argues that Obama’s plan would expand an ineffective system. Again, the opposite is true. Any insurance program can come up short – and both Medicaid and SCHIP have been systematically underfunded—but Medicaid and SCHIP are still very valuable. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities provides ample facts to backup their statement:
Publicly insured children are more likely to have asthma, learning disabilities, and/or health conditions that require regular treatment with prescription medications. Medicaid and SCHIP provide access to the medical care that can treat these problems and help children grow, function, and learn more effectively.
Most disturbingly, the op-ed implies that, the private insurance market is a panacea where health care flows freely and everyone gets what they need. The real world is very different. As the Wonk Room has previously reported, insurers wrongly stop payment to doctors (meaning their patients don’t get care), overcharge for use of out-of-network doctors, and pay bonuses to insurance bureaucrats who can find excuses to disenroll high-cost patients. Those with employer-sponsored insurance face growing obstacles to care in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and drug formularies. And, the private market needs much more by way of consumer protections.
Two other myths in the op-ed that are worth quickly debunking.
First, the op-ed claims that Obama “would make private health insurance affordable by having the government force doctors to accept below-cost rates for their services and impose a 4 percent tax on physician earnings.”
It’s tough to know how the Washington Times and CMPI can justify making this stuff up. Obama is going to pay for his health care plan by raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 a year. Obama hasn’t discussed lowering payment rates, and certainly hasn’t proposed new physician taxes.
Second, they argue that “Mr. Obama would also create a new health board to create lists of ‘cost effective’ new drugs and medical devices, and set prices for their payment.”
To help doctors get the information that they need, Obama has discussed creating an independent research institute so that doctors can use unbiased information to deliver the best possible care. Today, there is little to no head-to-head testing of drugs and devices to see which are more effective and under what circumstances. As a result, these companies are able to mislead doctors and consumers with flimsy claims. Our health care system will deliver better quality care when this kind of information is available.
Sadly, this is just the beginning of the fear-mongering for 2009.