Get the Facts Straight on Healthcare Reform

MYTH #1: Reform doesn’t affect people who already have health insurance.

THE FACTS: Reform affects all Americans who have ever worried about healthcare costs or about losing their coverage if they become too sick, lose their jobs or change jobs. Every day, 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance. Further, one of the driving forces behind government deficits is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid. A public plan option will provide competition with the insurance industry to help keep costs down. If healthcare costs are not brought under control, there will be fewer resources for education and other important public services. In addition, out-of-pocket healthcare costs for every family will continue to climb.

MYTH #2: A public plan option will force all Americans into a government-run health program.

THE FACTS: Individuals with insurance do not have to join the public option. As President Obama has said: “if you like what you have, you can keep it.” Reform will create a health insurance exchange for the uninsured; this will allow individuals to compare prices and health plans to decide which plan (public or private) is right for them and their families. The choice is left up to the individual. The public plan option will benefit uninsured as well as insured Americans by increasing competition and choice in the marketplace. It will hold private insurers accountable, and will lower costs while ensuring affordable healthcare. Surely private insurance companies cannot be afraid of competition from a non-profit group.

MYTH #3: Reforming healthcare will cut Medicare benefits for seniors.

THE FACTS: The president is committed to improving healthcare for all older Americans and to strengthening Medicare. The healthcare reform plan now being considered will extend Medicare coverage and preserve older Americans’ freedom to choose their doctor. It will eliminate wasteful overpayments to private plans (estimated at $160 billion); expand access to and end patient co-payments for Medicare preventive services; increase payments to healthcare providers, which would
prevent doctors from refusing Medicare patients; and phase out the Part D “doughnut hole” that has caused many older Americans to do without their medications so they can afford other necessities.

MYTH #4: Co-ops are an adequate substitute for a national public insurance plan.

THE FACTS: A co-op is not a substitute for a national public health insurance plan, nor are co-ops a new idea. During the 1930s and 1940s, a healthcare cooperative movement was introduced in the United States; it failed. Co-ops were too small and undercapitalized to survive a physicians’ boycott. Today, experts estimate that co-ops would need at least 25,000 participants to be financially viable and more than 500,000 participants to be able to negotiate for lower rates. They would be essentially too small and too fractured to have effective bargaining power against the health insurance industry. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan controls 65 percent of the state’s commercial market and would not be challenged by a “start-up” co-op.

MYTH #5: America’s deficit will increase by $1 trillion due to healthcare reform and force many families to go broke.

THE FACTS: President Obama has said he will not sign a bill that would add to the national debt or deficit. To honor this commitment, he has proposed that two-thirds of the cost of reform be paid for by reducing waste, fraud and abuse in existing programs and ending overpayments to insurance companies. The remaining revenue will come from limiting the itemized tax deductions for couples making more than $250,000 a year.

The current healthcare system results in $700 billion a year in wasteful and inefficient spending—causing financial strain on many families. Placing caps on out-of-pocket expenditures, including co-payments, and limiting extravagant spending by insurance companies are some of the new proposals to hold down rising healthcare costs for many working families.

MYTH #6: Congress is moving too quickly.

THE FACTS: The time to reform our healthcare system is now. Many Americans are uninsured or struggle to pay the soaring costs of care. As costs continue to rise, even those with employer-provided insurance pay a heavy price in forgone pay raises, increases in insurance deductibles and premiums, and greater insecurity about the availability of high-quality healthcare in the future.

Since 2000, employee contributions to company-provided health insurance have increased more than 120 percent, and out-of-pocket costs for deductibles, co-payments for medications, and co-insurance for physician and hospital visits have risen 115 percent. Skyrocketing healthcare costs strain family budgets, burden businesses of all sizes, squeeze state and federal budgets, and are delaying America’s economic recovery.

Send a letter to your U.S. senators and representative and encourage them to reform healthcare now.

Sourced: American Federation of Teachers

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