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The Truth-O-Meter on health care: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan August 13, 2009

We've researched and written dozens of Truth-O-Meter items on health care reform, so we chose our 10 Greatest Hits, the ones we consider most significant:

• Sarah Palin : Seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." Pants on Fire!

'Death panels' are not part of Obama's health plan. It's not clear where Palin, the former Republican governor of Alaska, came up with this idea. A "comparative effectiveness" board in the health care bill evaluates treatments, not patients. And the board's conclusions aren't binding. And the bill allows Medicare to pay for counseling sessions on end-of-life care, but it's not required (and it doesn't require euthenasia!).

• John Boehner : The Democrat-backed health care reform plan "will require (Americans) to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars." False

In the first go-round, health bills didn't mention abortion. A recent amendment, though, seeks to broker a neutral compromise. People can choose a health plan with coverage for abortions, though not subsidized by tax dollars. Another option will allow people to choose a plan with no abortion. Boehner, the House Republican leader, is wrong that subsidies for abortion are required.

• Betsy McCaughey : The health care reform bill "would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner." Pants on Fire!

There are no mandatory sessions. Instead, for the first time, Medicare will cover doctor appointments for patients to discuss living wills and other end-of-life issues. These appointments are optional, and the AARP supports the measure. McCaughey, a conservative commentator on health, misses the mark.

• Chain e-mail : "All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services." Pants on Fire!

Nobody gets completely free health care in the bill, and certainly not illegal immigrants. The basis for this rumor is a generic nondiscrimination clause that says that insurers may not discriminate with regard to "personal characteristics extraneous to the provision of high quality health care or related services." But the e-mail leaps to an incorrect conclusion.

• Chain e-mail : In the health care bill, "The 'Health Choices Commissioner' will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None." Pants on Fire!

The Health Choices Commissioner oversees a health insurance exchange where people shop for individual policies. People will choose from several different offerings, so this statement is just wrong.

• Barack Obama : "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan." Half True

Obama was trying to make the point that employer-provided health insurance will stay in place under his plan. But the truth is, employers will be free to change policies, just like they can now. So you can only keep your health plan if your employer decided to keep it.

• Russ Carnahan : "The Congressional Budget Office most recently came out and analyzed the current (health care) plan and said that it was not only deficit-neutral, but also that over 10 years it would create a $6 billion surplus." False

The CBO has not scored the plan as deficit neutral. In fact, they found that it would add $239 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Democrats hope new pay-go legislation will help the CBO score, but the CBO hasn't confirmed that. Carnahan is a Democratic congressman from Missouri.

Barack Obama : "Medicare and Medicaid are the single biggest drivers of the federal deficit and the federal debt by a huge margin." Mostly True

Not in the short term. But over the long haul, Medicare and Medicaid will consume the federal budget.

• Karl Rove : Under a public health care option, 120 million Americans will "lose what they now get from private companies and be forced onto the government-run rolls as businesses decide it is more cost-effective for them to drop coverage." False

Rove, a Republican strategist, cites a study that actually says that many people would select the cheapest health insurance plan if given a choice. People would not be forced onto a government-run plan.

• Roy Blunt : "Democrats have failed to answer the most basic question of how they want to pay for the more than $1 trillion of health care spending." Mostly True

Blunt, a Republican congressman from Missouri, said this back in May, but it's still Mostly True. Democrats have different ideas on how to pay for health care, and it's one of the great unanswered questions in the debate so far.

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The Truth-O-Meter on health care: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1