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PolitiFact.com | St. Petersburg Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

Republicans' analysis distorts health bill

A few months ago, a chain e-mail purporting to be a line-by-line analysis of the House health care reform bill reached inboxes all over the country, warning people of the dire consequences of the Democratic plans for reform. Taking a page from the same playbook, the House Republican Conference has created a similar list for the new health care bill that soon will be coming to the House floor. The Republican analysis, which provides talking points that members use on radio and TV, portrays the Democratic bill as overly restrictive, bureaucratic and a threat to senior citizens. The GOP analysis isn't quite as over-the-top as the chain e-mail, but at times it crosses the line into outright distortion. Below, we highlight three points from the analysis, followed by a PolitiFact ruling. For complete coverage of the analysis, go to PolitiFact.com.

Abortion coverage

"Page 110 — Section 222(e) requires the use of federal dollars to fund abortions through the government-run health plan and, if the Hyde Amendment were ever not renewed, would require the plan to fund elective abortions."

Half True. The public option could offer abortion services, but if it does, those services would be paid for with segregated patient premiums, not public subsidies. The sticking point here is the term "federal dollars." If you consider federal dollars to be tax revenues, then the public option would not pay for abortion. On the other hand, if you consider "federal dollars" to be any money handled by a federal agency, then the public option would pay for abortion. That's why we rate this statement Half True.

Dictating plans

"Page 111 — Section 223 establishes a new board of federal bureaucrats to dictate the health plans that all individuals must purchase."

False. The bill creates the Health Benefits Advisory Committee to advise the secretary of Health and Human Services on what the specifics of basic coverage should be. The committee will have up to 27 members appointed by the president and the comptroller general, and it will represent the major stakeholders in the health care system. But the committee doesn't dictate health plans: It advises the secretary, who can reject the recommendations. Another caveat is that the committee helps set a baseline for types of coverage. People are then free to select any health plan they like that meets or exceeds the basic requirements. So the committee does not dictate which health plans all individuals must purchase.

'Government-run' plan

"Page 211 — Section 321 establishes a new government-run health plan that, according to non-partisan actuaries at the Lewin Group, would cause as many as 114 million Americans to lose their existing coverage."

False. We've covered this claim extensively in other checks. The Lewin Group study found that 114 million Americans would choose to move to the public option if it were cheaper than private insurance. The study assumed that the public option would pay doctors Medicare rates, but the latest version of the House bill contradicts that, by saying that the secretary of Health and Human Services must negotiate payment rates. The study also assumed that all employers and individuals would be allowed into the health care exchange during the third year. That seems unlikely; the legislation says that businesses will be phased into the exchange based on size, with the smallest allowed in first. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that only 30 million would be allowed into the exchange by 2019 — far less than the Lewin Group's estimate of more than 114 million choosing the public option. So the Lewin Group study made assumptions that don't apply to the House bill. The claim here also misrepresents the study by saying people will "lose" their existing coverage, rather than people voluntarily switching to a lower-cost plan.

Republicans' analysis distorts health bill 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 10:48pm]
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