He just sort of shook his head and sighed. Understand that this is Idaho, and he's a doctor. So he's pretty much a Republican. But he's a very frustrated Republican who keeps hearing his patients recite back to him Fox News talking points. They think government is going to dictate what kind of care they can get. They think they're losing their freedom. And don't get him started on death panels. Yes, death panels. Still. He talked to me about the real death panel experiences he's had. The ones with the insurance companies. Like last year when he had a patient in her sixties with early stage liver cancer. She was a fantastic candidate for a relatively new, very effective treatment in which the tumor is cauterized in a minimally invasive procedure. Nope, her insurance company said. It's not an approved procedure, so she didn't get it. And she didn't make it.
We all know those kinds of stories. Presumably, even the people who are duped in to believing that there really are death panels in Obamacare either have been or know someone who has been screwed over by their insurance company. And yet, this new law that will rein in some of the worst abuses of those insurance companies is scarier to them than the status quo. Because they just keep hearing the myths. So let's go through it one more time, those persistent myths that just won't go away. Because in just a few days the exchanges open, everybody's talking about it, so that makes now a really good time to inject some truth.
Let's head below the fold and talk it out.
Almost all of the big lies are aimed at, as usual, the people who are the "haves." That's why the people my doctor has been talking to are so scared. That's why they've been talking about losing "freedom." They've been listening to Fox News and hearing that Obamacare is going to take what they already have away from them.
Obamacare will take the insurance I have away.
Let's just get this straight: If you already have insurance, Obamacare is not taking it away. If you do lose it, it's because your employer has dropped your coverage. It's true that some employers might drop it, either to make a political point or because it would cost them less to pay the penalty for not providing coverage than to continue to carry it. But that's not something Obamacare is forcing them to do.
Obamacare won't let me see my doctor anymore.
Trust me, the government doesn't care what doctor you see. If you have insurance, and you have a primary doctor, that won't change unless your insurance company decides it will change. The power to force you to find a new doctor is something insurance companies have always had, and still do.
The IRS will control my health care.
That's a persistent and difficult one to shake. Everyone hates the IRS, so it's easy to believe the worst here. The IRS has a big role: It's going to be verifying how much of a subsidy you're going to be getting to help pay for insurance if you purchase it on the exchange. If you already have health insurance, the IRS will have nothing to do with it, with you, with your health care. They don't know who your doctor is. They won't see your medical records. They don't care about your medical records.
It's taking Medicare money away from me.
Scaring old people is the easiest and favorite thing for Republicans to do. Obamacare will not make you pay more for your Medicare, it will not take it away, and if you're on Medicare, you don't have to do anything at all on Oct. 1. But if you are on Medicare, you will see some additional benefits from Obamacare: more preventative care services and more savings on prescription drug coverage.
Obamacare is going to ration my health care (a corollary of death panels).
Your insurance company already rations your health care, but much of that's changed with Obamacare: you can now get preventive care services without having a copay; you don't face annual or lifetime caps on how much your insurance company will pay out for you if you get seriously, chronically ill; your insurance company can't deem a condition "pre-existing" and refuse to cover it.
The Independent Payment Advisory Board, the supposed death panel, is prohibited in the law from rationing health care. It's right there in black and white: It cannot make "any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria."
This is a government take-over of health care in America.
We should be so lucky. Your insurance company won't be going out of business, turning all your records over to the government. The insurance industry will continue to flourish, albeit with some new regulations that even the people propounding this one like, number one being no more pre-existing conditions.
There are a lot more, really crazy, chain-email type ones like "you won't get cancer treatment after age 76," or "government workers will force their way into your home to inspect it," or "this is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world," or "Obamacare creates a database of people's sex lives." Occasionally, PolitiFact is useful debunking lies. They do a good job with these and a handful of others.
But the lies directed toward the uninsured are the ones that really expose just how immoral Republicans are. They are trying to convince people, particularly young people, that it's better to go without the protection of health insurance to make a political statement. No one cuts through this better than, Brian Beutler, at Salon. A few weeks ago, he wrote about his own experience, being a victim of gun violence, and in a follow-up essay writes about the health care lesson he learned, because by luck and the nagging of his father, he had paid his first insurance premium six hours before getting shot.
One of the arguments I made in my first essay is that it makes no sense to respond to minor risks by taking drastic measures (in that case, I was responding to making sweeping racial judgments based on a lone incident). Nobody should respond to the threat of communicable illness by sheltering indoors like Howard Hughes. Nobody should mitigate the risk of accident by diminishing their quality of life. But buying insurance? That’s like taking a cab through a dangerous neighborhood. It’s a perfectly sensible hedge even if it’s somewhat costlier than the alternative. If it weren’t sensible, millions and millions of people insured by their employers — including, probably, the same people now encouraging young people to skip Obamacare — would be opting out in exchange for additional cash compensation.This is simple, particularly for young people. Health insurance can save your life. Health insurance can secure your financial future. Bottom line, anything that makes it easier, more affordable to get health insurance is a good thing. Because, yes, you could be hit by a bus tomorrow. You could get in a car wreck. You could break your leg or develop diabetes or get cancer. It happens to people everywhere all the time, and rolling the dice that it's not going to happen to you doesn't have to be an option any more.
Obviously people who have insurance already—including young people, who currently cross-subsidize their older colleagues in existing group markets—think it’s a pretty good deal. If you’re eligible for Obamacare, and people try to convince you otherwise, ask yourself if you think they’d be giving their own children the same advice. And your decision will be obvious.
Rolling those dice to make a political point because the Koch Brothers, who can afford the very best of health insurance for their families, tell you to? Now that would just be stupid.