Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

One year later: the falsehoods continue

President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010.
President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010.

One year ago today, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, ending a knock-down, drag-out political fight that lasted more than a year.

If anyone thought the law’s passage would end distortions about the health care law, they were seriously mistaken.

We’ve conducted more than 400 separate fact-checks on health care since 2007, including more than 150 since the law was signed in 2010. Today, to mark the law’s one-year anniversary, we’re highlighting 10 of the most significant falsehoods we’ve checked about the health care law in the past year.

Pants on Fire!

First, we’ll look at the rogue’s gallery of statements that earned our worst rating.

Under the new health care law, "all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% Sales Tax." This statement comes from a popular chain e-mail that we’ve seen time and time again. It tells empty-nesters they’ll be punished for trying to downsize into smaller homes. But that’s not so. There’s a new 3.8 percent tax on investment income for the wealthy. If they sell their homes at a substantial profit, it's possible they might get hit with the 3.8 percent tax. Most Americans won't have to worry about this, though. We rated the statement Pants on Fire.

Starting in 2011, "you will be required to pay taxes" on "the value of whatever health insurance you are given by the company." Another chain e-mail tells people they’ll now be taxed on their health insurance benefits. It’s not the case. The e-mail even directs readers to a source that directly contradicts the claim. No surprise here: Pants on Fire!

Those who fail to buy health insurance under "Obamacare" face the threat of jail time. The law does include a mandate that everyone buy insurance. Those who don’t will face a fine on their tax returns. But if you don’t pay the fine, you won’t go to jail. As plainly stated on page 111 of the law, "In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure." PolitiFact Virginia gave Republican Del. Bob Marshall a Pants on Fire for this one.

Under the new health care law, "the first person (a) patient has to go to is a bureaucrat. That is called a panel." There are certainly new boards and bureaucracies that are part of the health care law, particularly those that look at evidence-based medicine and outcomes. But there are no boards before which individual patients must appear. We gave West Virginia Senate Republican candidate John Raese a Pants on Fire for saying this duirng the 2010 campaign.

Other major distortions

We found plenty of distortions from both political parties that merited ratings of False. Here are some of the most significant.

Twelve judges have thrown out legal challenges to the health care law because they rejected "the notion that the health care law was unconstitutional." President Obama made this statement in defense of the federal requirement that everyone have health insurance. But it vastly overstates what judges have said about the law’s constitutionality. Twelve judges have thrown out challenges on procedural grounds. But on constitutional grounds, the tally is two judges who say it’s constitutional and two who say it’s not. We rated Obama’s statement False.

The health care law is "job killing." Republicans like to repeat this claim, but we found very little substance to back it up. Most nonpartisan analysts say that overall job losses or gains because of the bill will not be significant. "To the extent that changes in the health insurance system lead to improved health status among workers, the nation’s economic productivity could be enhanced," said the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. "It is not clear, however, whether such changes would have a substantial impact on overall economic productivity or output." We gave Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., a False for this statement.

The new health care law crushes small businesses "with billions in penalties." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce made this claim in ads during the 2010 election. It left out the fact that some small businesses will actually get tax credits from the health care law, and that those with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from penalties, whether they offer insurance or not. Some small businesses are larger than 50 employees and could face fines if they don't offer insurance. But the vast majority of U.S. firms are smaller than 50 employees. We rated the Chamber’s statement False.

The health care law includes tort reform. The health care law offers grants to states to start tort reform pilot projects, but it also says states can’t take away people’s ability to sue. Trial lawyers said the program was nothing to worry about. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., said the law included tort reform, or changes in the rules for suing for damages. We rated his statement False.

The health care law is "probably the biggest tax increase ever in the history of our country." The health care law does include new taxes, particularly new Medicare taxes on the wealthy. The new taxes represent the first significant increases since 1993, but they’re hardly the largest in U.S. history. Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott said this; we rated the statement False.

Gun ownership information can be recorded and collected by the federal government and insurance companies as part of the federal health care law. This claim is directly contradicted by the health care law, which includes specific protections for gun owners. The law says gun owners won’t see insurance premium increases and their information won't be included in a gun owner database or registry. Florida state Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said this; we rated it False.