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By Sean Gorman July 1, 2012

George Allen calls health care law a government takeover

Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen has been a relentless critic of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, calling it "a government takeover of health care."

He used that phrase in a radio commercial that ran just before his victory in the June 12 Republican Primary, during a June 15 speech in Washington to the Faith and Freedom Coalition and in a June 16 speech at the GOP state convention in Richmond. In each instance, he criticized his Democratic opponent, Tim Kaine, for supporting the health care law and being an ally of the president.

The Weekly Standard, in a June 25 article, wrote that Allen’s stump speech "always includes a dig at Obamacare -- which Allen describes as a ’government takeover of health care.’"   

We asked Allen’s campaign for the rationale behind the candidate’s "takeover" claim but did not receive an explanation.

But the refrain has been used by Republicans and debunked by fact-checkers. Since Allen is using the claim regularly, we decided to review it again.

There’s no question the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expands government regulation of health care. The law mandates that most Americans have health care insurance or pay a tax penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld that provision on June 28 in a 5-4 opinion.

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The law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on a person’s pre-existing health conditions and from imposing lifetime caps on an individual’s benefits. It increases eligibility for Medicaid, although the high court struck down the federal government’s ability to withhold funds from states that refuse to take part in the expansion. The act provides credits for people who can’t afford to purchase insurance.

But the law does not create a "government takeover" of health care. Here’s why:

*The government will not seize control of hospitals and other privately-run health care businesses. Doctors will not become government employees, as they are in Britain.

*The law continues to rely on the private sector to provide health insurance for consumers. In fact, its coverage mandate will expand the number of people who buy private insurance policies. The act sets up exchanges where private companies will compete to insure people who don’t have policies.  

*Employer-based coverage through private insurance companies will continue.

*The law does not contain a "public option" allowing the government to compete for business with private insurers.

*It does not create a single-payer system, like in Canada, where medical payments are funded by a single insurance pool controlled by the government.

PolitiFact has ruled past claims that the law is a government takeover as either False or Pants on Fire. In 2010, PolitiFact’s national team named the takeover claim the "Lie of the Year," saying it conjured images of socialized medical care.

The Associated Press has also said the law "does not add up to a government takeover." The Washington Post Fact Checker column said the "government takeover" label is "simply not true." And has said that the law will not lead to "government-run" health care.

Drew Altman, president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, came to the same conclusion in an August 2011 column entitled "Are we headed for a government takeover of Health Care?"

Altman wrote that actuarial figures released that month from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that the state and federal government share of health care spending was 45 percent in 2010 -- the year the law was signed. By 2020, that is expected to rise to 49 percent.

"In other words, government’s share of national health spending, while unquestionably large, is not growing much at all, and even in 10 years it will be less than half of our country’s total health spending," Altman wrote. "Measured by the government’s share of health care spending, there is no sign of a government takeover of the health care system."

The report, Altman said, demonstrated the nation’s health care system has been and will remain "a mixed public-private one."

Our ruling

Allen says that the health care reform law is a "government takeover of health care."

Yes, the law increases regulation. But it greatly relies on the private sector to provide health care. Hospitals will not be taken over by the government, doctors will not become federal employees. The act relies on private insurers to compete and provide health care coverage to an expanded customer base. Employer-based coverage through private companies continues.

The "government takeover of health care" is a potent political charge that does not hold up under examination. We rate Allen’s claim False.

Our Sources

George Allen for U.S. Senate, "GOTV radio ad: send a message," June 6, 2012.

PolitiFact, "PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘A government takeover of health care," December 10, 2012.

PolitiFact, "Romney calls Obama’s health care law a government takeover," May 13, 2011.

PolitiFact New Jersey, "Chris Christie slams health care reform as ‘a government takeover of health care,’" October 23, 2011.

PolitiFact Ohio, "Josh Mandel says Sherrod Brown cast the deciding vote for a government takeover of health care," May 30, 2012,

PolitiFact Florida, "Florida Republican Party claims Democratic health care plan is government takeover," March 19, 2010.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Republican Rebecca Kleefisch says Democrat Tom Barrett supports government takeover of health care," October 17, 2010.

PolitiFact Virginia, "Robert Hurt calls health care reform law a ‘government takeover,’" December 16, 2012.

Kaiser Family Foundation, "Are we headed for a government takeover of health care?" August 1, 2011.

Sens. Tom Coburn and John Barrasso, "Warning: Side Effects," March, 2012.

Congressional Budget Office, "The budgetary treatment of proposals to change the nation’s health insurance system," May 27, 2009.

Congressional Budget Office, "Budgetary treatment of proposals to regulated Medical Loss Ratios," December 13, 2009.

Congressional Research Service, "Public and Private expenditures for health care, 2007," December 1, 2009.

Congressional Research Service, "Public and Private expenditures for health care, 2014," August 24, 2011.

Interview with A.E. Dick Howard, professor of law at the University of Virginia, June 28, 2012., "Value for your premium dollar," accessed on June 28, 2012.

The Washington Post, "Myths and facts about Obamacare," January 18, 2011., "Romney’s ‘gross’ exaggeration on ‘Obamacare,’" May 10, 2012. "‘Government-run nonsense,’" November 21, 2011., "GOP’s ‘job-killing’ whopper, again," February 21, 2012.

The Heritage Foundation, "Obamacare spells disaster for Americans," May 31, 2010.

The Heritage Foundation, "Top 10 disasters of Obamacare," March 30, 2010.

The Heritage Foundation, "New report shows health spending spikes under Obamacare," June 15, 2012.

Cato Institute, "All the President’s mandates, compulsory health insurance is a government takeover," September 23, 2009.

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, "Just call me liar of the year," January 24, 2011.

The New York Times, "A ‘government takeover’ of health care?" Feruary 26, 2010.

Associated Press, "Fact Check: Romney, Obama gloss over realities," April 5, 2012.

Washington Post, "Health-care overhaul: does it mean a government takeover of health insurance," October 18, 2010.

PolitiFact Wisconsin, "Tommy Thompson says federal health care reforms are a ‘government takeover of health care,’" June 24, 2012.

PolitiFact "Top 5 falsehoods about the health care law," June 27, 2012.

U.S. Supreme Court, "National Federation of Independent business, et al v. Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services et al," June 28, 2012.

PolitiFact, "Everything you want to know about the healthcare law," March 23, 2012.

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