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PolitiFact: The top 16 myths about Obamacare

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, because 10 isn't enough to capture all the exaggerations:

The health care law rations care like systems in Canada and Great Britain.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, July 2, 2012, in an interview on Fox News

The health care law is not socialized medicine. 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 that fail to provide insurance for employees, and it requires all individuals to have health insurance. This is unlike the systems in 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.

The health care law has "death panels."

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 program should 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.

Muslims are exempt from the health care law.

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) and does not 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.

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."

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 in the health care law, but it's not the role suggested here. If you buy insurance in the marketplace and you get a subsidy, officials will check tax records to make sure you qualify. That communication with the IRS happens through 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.

Because of Obamacare, health care premiums have "gone up slower than any time in the last 50 years."

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.

Congress is exempt from Obamacare.

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 do 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.

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."

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 the Affordable Care Act, 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.

The health care law is a "government takeover" of health care.

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. Most Americans will continue to get coverage from private insurers. We rated the claim Pants on Fire.

"All non-U.S. citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free health care services."

Chain email, July 28, 2009

The law does not provide free health care to anyone, and especially not to people in the United States illegally. Illegal immigrants cannot enroll in Medicaid; nor are they eligible to shop in the marketplace for health insurance. Permanent legal residents are eligible for health insurance subsidies in 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.

Under Obamacare, "75 percent of small businesses now say they are going to be forced to either fire workers or cut their hours."

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., July 25, 2013, in a FoxNews.com opinion piece

Suggestions that businesses are laying off workers because of the health care law have 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 businesses with fewer than 25 employees may qualify for tax credits under the law.) The claim here that 75 percent of small businesses 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.

"At age 76 when you most need it, you are not eligible for cancer treatment" under the health care law.

Chain email, June 3, 2013

Some misinformation about the law has been 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. The health care law didn't make changes to patient benefits in Medicare. Cancer treatment will still be covered by Medicare. Also, there are no changes in the law aimed at people 76 and older. This claim seems to have been invented out of whole cloth as a scare tactic. We rated it Pants on Fire.

The health care law includes "a 3.8 percent sales tax" on "all real estate transactions."

Chain email, July 24, 2012

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.

"Obamacare is … the largest tax increase in the history of the world."

Rush Limbaugh, June 28, 2012, on his radio show

The radio host and others have claimed that 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.

A "hidden" provision in the health care law taxes sporting goods as medical devices.

Chain email, June 12, 2013

The chain email claims that common sporting goods equipment — fishing rods, outboard motors, tackle boxes — will be taxed 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 chain 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 reversed itself the same day. As for the chain email, we rated it Pants on Fire.

Obamacare will question your sex life.

Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York, Sept. 15, 2013, in an opinion piece in the New York Post

McCaughey said the law pressures doctors into asking about people's sex lives and recording those answers 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 and medications. Privacy advocates do have concerns about electronic health records, but it's not about people being asked embarrassing questions about their sex lives. We rated this claim Pants on Fire.

An Obamacare provision will allow "forced home inspections" by government agents.

Bloggers, Aug. 15, 2013

State lawmakers in South Carolina got this one going by saying they were concerned that the health care law allowed forced home inspections. People can relax, though: There are no forced home inspections. An optional home health care program sends nurses to the homes of pregnant poor women. The idea is that the nurses check on the women and offer prenatal advice in a comfortable environment. The program is not mandatory. We rated this claim Pants on Fire.

PolitiFact: The top 16 myths about Obamacare 09/26/13 [Last modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 5:53pm]

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