Top 16 myths about the health care law
PolitiFact has been fact-checking claims about the federal health care law since lawmakers started drafting the legislation in 2009. Long controversial, the law has been no stranger to attacks by detractors. Here are 16 of the biggest falsehoods PolitiFact has rated.
( Fact-checks are listed in no particular order. The links will take you to a full report and a source list for each fact-check.)
1. The health care law rations care, like systems in Canada and Great Britain. False.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, July 2, 2012, in an interview on Fox News
The health care law is not socialized medicine. Instead, it leaves in place the private health care system that follows free market principles. The law does put more regulations on health insurance companies. It also fines most large employers who fail to provide insurance for their employees, and it requires all individuals to have health insurance. This is unlike the systems in either Britain or Canada. In Britain, doctors are employees of the government, while in Canada, the government pays most medical bills as part of a single-payer system. The U.S. health care law has neither of those features. PolitiFact has rated this claim and others like it False.
2. The health care law has "death panels." Pants on Fire.
Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor, Aug. 7, 2009, in a message posted on Facebook
Back in 2009, it was a popular talking point to claim that the health care law had "death panels" to determine if individuals are worthy of receiving health care coverage. The claim was widely debunked and named PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year. The talking point started in reaction to an idea for Medicare, that the Medicare program for seniors should specifically cover doctor appointments for seniors who wanted to discuss do-not-resuscitate orders, end-of-life directives and living wills. The visits would have been completely optional and only for people who wanted the appointments. After controversy, the provision was dropped from the final legislation. We rated the "death panels" claim Pants on Fire.
3. Muslims are exempt from the health care law. Pants on Fire.
Chain email, May 29, 2013
A widely circulated chain email claims that the word "dhimmitude" is on page 107 of the health care law, and it means Muslims will be exempt. Actually, the health care law does not include the word "dhimmitude" (a recently coined word that seems to refer to non-Muslims under Muslim rule). Also, the health care law doesn’t exempt Muslims. There is a "religious conscience exemption,'' but it applies to groups that disavow all forms of insurance, including Social Security. Muslim groups have supported the Affordable Care Act. We rated the chain email’s claim Pants on Fire.
4. The IRS is going to be "in charge" of "a huge national database" on health care that will include Americans’ "personal, intimate, most close-to-the-vest-secrets." Pants on Fire.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., May 15, 2013, in an interview on Fox News
The Internal Revenue Service does have a role to play as part of the health care law, but it’s not the role suggested here. If you buy insurance on the marketplace and you get a subsidy, officials will check tax records to make sure you qualify. That communication with the IRS happens via a data hub that’s also connected to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s important to note, though, that the hub isn’t a database. The IRS isn’t running it. And it doesn’t include "intimate" health data. The hub is for signing up for health insurance, not for storing medical records. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.
5. Congress is exempt from Obamacare. False.
Chain email, Jan. 6, 2013
Even a few sitting lawmakers have repeated this claim, but it’s not true. Congress is not exempt from Obamacare. Like everyone else, lawmakers are required to have health insurance. They’re also required to buy insurance through the marketplaces. The idea is to have lawmakers and their staff buy insurance the same way their uninsured constituents would so they understand what their constituents have to deal with. Most Americans who already get insurance through work are left alone under the law; members of Congress have insurance through work but are treated differently in this regard. Recently, a rule was added so that lawmakers’ could keep the traditional employer contribution to their coverage. But they weren’t exempt from requirements that other Americans face. We rated this claim False.
6. Under Obamacare, people who "have a doctor they’ve been seeing for the last 15 or 20 years, they won’t be able to keep going to that doctor." Mostly False.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., July 31, 2013 in a Fox News interview
Some have suggested that Obamacare would interfere with doctor-patient relationships. Actually, there’s no more interference than what existed before Obamacare. Right now, patients can lose access to their doctors when their insurance policies change. This typically happens when employers switch plans or when workers switch (or lose) jobs. Under Obamacare, some patients who buy health insurance through the marketplace could lose access to their current doctor, but it’s difficult to predict how many. And it would be because they have a new insurance plan. We rated this claim Mostly False.
7. The health care law is a "government takeover" of health care. Pants on Fire.
U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, Feb. 20, 2010, in a speech to Pinellas County Republicans.
"Government takeover" conjures a European approach where the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are public employees. But the law Congress passed relies largely on the free market. It's true that the law significantly increases government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market. The majority of Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.
8. "All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services." Pants on Fire.
Chain email, July 28, 2009
The health care law does not provide free health care services to anyone, and especially not to people in the United States illegally. Illegal immigrants may not enroll in Medicaid, nor are they eligible to shop on the marketplace for health insurance. Permanent legal residents are eligible for health insurance subsidies on the marketplace, as are U.S. citizens. Current law says that hospital emergency rooms must stabilize illegal immigrants with medical emergencies, but that law predates Obamacare. We rated this claim Pants on Fire.
9. Because of Obamacare, health care premiums have "gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years." False.
President Barack Obama, Oct. 3, 2012, in a presidential debate
The historical data for health care premiums only goes back 14 years; there’s no evidence to support the idea that premiums are at a 50-year low. Overall health care costs have slowed down, but even there, Obama exaggerated the impact of his health care law. Experts say slowing costs are due to a variety of reasons, including the recent recession. Giving all the credit to the new law overstates the case. We rated the statement False.
10. Under Obamacare, "75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours." Pants on Fire.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., July 25, 2013 in a FoxNews.com op-ed
Suggestions that business are laying off workers because of the health care law have so far proven to be largely unfounded. Most small businesses -- those with fewer than 50 employees -- do not have to provide health insurance to their employees. (In fact, some very small businesses with fewer than 25 employees may qualify for tax credits under the law.) The claim here that 75 percent of small business were reducing their workforce was based on a misreading of a study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The study actually found that less than 10 percent of small businesses said they will be forced to reduce their workforce or cut hours. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.
11. "At age 76 when you most need it, you are not eligible for cancer treatment" under the health law. Pants on Fire.
Chain email, June 3, 2013
Some misinformation about the health care law has been specifically aimed at seniors, even though the law largely leaves the Medicare program alone. This particular claim, that older cancer patients will go without treatment, is wrong on several levels. For one thing, the health care law didn’t make changes to patient benefits in the Medicare program. Cancer treatment will still be covered by Medicare. Also, there are no changes in the law aimed at people 76 or older. This claim seems to have been invented out of whole cloth as a scare tactic. We rated it Pants on Fire.
12. The health care law includes "a 3.8% sales tax" on "all real estate transactions." Pants on Fire.
Chain email, July 24, 2012
An anonymous chain email claims that the health care law puts a 3.8 percent tax on home sales. This is not correct. The law does include new taxes, but the taxes are primarily on the health care industry and on investment income for the wealthy. For middle-class homeowners, there are long-standing tax exemptions on the profits from home sales, and the health care law didn’t change them. We rated this statement Pants on Fire.
13. "Obamacare is . . . the largest tax increase in the history of the world." Pants on Fire.
Rush Limbaugh, June 28, 2012, on his radio show
Radio host Rush Limbaugh and others have claimed the health care law includes historically high tax increases. While there are new taxes in the health care law -- representing the first significant federal tax increases since 1993 -- they are not the largest increases in the history of the United States, much less the world. When accounting for the size of the overall economy, tax increases signed into law by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were larger than the tax increases in the health law. We rated this statement Pants on Fire.
14. A "hidden" provision in the health care law taxes sporting goods as medical devices. Pants on Fire.
Chain email, June 12, 2013
A chain email claims that common sporting goods equipment -- fishing rods, outboard motors, tackle boxes -- will be taxed at 2.3 percent under Obamacare. There is a 2.3 percent tax in the law, but it applies to medical devices, not sports equipment. Also, the medical devices tax applies to manufacturers and makers, not consumers. This chain email seems to stem from a mistake made at Cabela’s, a Nebraska-based retail store that sells sporting goods. At the beginning of 2013, Cabela’s accidentally started taxing its sales and labeling it a medical excise tax. But that move was in error, and the company quickly reversed itself the same day. As for the chain email, we rate its claim Pants on Fire!
15. Obamacare will question your sex life. Pants on Fire.
Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York, Sept. 15, 2013, in an op-ed in the New York Post
In the op-ed, McCaughey claimed the law pressures doctors into asking about people’s sex lives and recording those answer in electronic health records. Actually, it was the economic stimulus that created incentives for doctors to move to electronic health records. And, none of the criteria require questions about people’s sex lives. Instead, doctors are asked to record standard diagnostic criteria like vital signs, diagnoses, medications and the like. Privacy advocates do have concerns about electronic health records, but it’s not about people getting asked embarrassing questions about their sex lives. We rated this claim Pants on Fire!
16. An Obamacare provision will allow "forced home inspections" by government agents. Pants on Fire.
Bloggers, Aug. 15, 2013
State lawmakers in South Carolina got this one going by claiming they were concerned that the health care law allowed forced home inspections. People can relax, though: There are no forced home inspections. What got people concerned is an optional home health care program that sends nurses on house calls to the homes of pregnant, poor women. The idea is that the nurses will check on the moms and offer prenatal advice in a comfortable environment. And the program is not mandatory. We rated this claim Pants on Fire!