FreedomWorks Distributes False Talking Points On Health Insurance Reform

August 06, 2009 10:19 am ET

On August 5, 2009, FreedomWorks released an action kit for its astroturfing work during the August recess.  This packet contains misinformation not only on health insurance reform but also cap-and-trade.  Clearly lacking facts that support their claims, FreedomWorks is resorting to fear mongering to activate their members.

FreedomWorks Released An August Recess Call Action Kit

FreedomWorks Released An August Recess Action Kit.  On August 5, 2009, FreedomWorks released its August Recess Action Kit.  Chairman Dick Armey wrote: "We've provided an August Recess Action Kit for you packed with good talking points, important questions, handouts to invite friends to attend events with you, and other helpful resources. Thank you in advance for doing your part. Congresswoman Pelosi will know soon enough that August isn't like any other month, August is when the grassroots took a stand once and for all." [FreedomWorks, 8/5/09]

Media Matters Action Network has debunked FreedomWorks' claims on cap-and-trade here.

FreedomWorks Spreads Misinformation About Health Insurance Reform

FreedomWorks: "Instead of 'competing' with private health insurance, the way proponents describe, the plans would actually threaten private health insurance and make it harder for people to purchase plans that work for them.  This would create a health care version of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that would squeeze out the private market." [FreedomWorks, 8/5/09]

House Bill Allows For Continuation Of Current Coverage.  According to PolitiFact.com: "The House bill allows for existing policies to be grandfathered in, so that people who currently have individual health insurance policies will not lose coverage." [PolitiFact.com, 7/22/09]

Currently, There Is A Severe Lack Of Competition Among Insurance Providers

Only A Few Insurance Companies Dominate The Market, Leaving Americans With Limited Choices In Health Care. According to the American Medical Association, 94 percent of United States health care markets are considered highly concentrated, meaning that one company or a small group of companies control a great deal of the market. [American Medical Association, "Competition in Health Insurance," 2008 Update]

New York Times: Fears Of A Public Plan Putting Private Plans Out Of Business Are "Overblown." According to the New York Times: "What many critics seem to fear most is that a new public plan would sweep away its private competitors and evolve over time into a full-fledged single-payer system (sometimes called Medicare for all). No matter how fair the competition between public and private plans might be at the start, they warn that the government would find it irresistible to rig the outcome through its regulatory and pricing powers and its ability, in a pinch, to subsidize the public plan with taxpayers' money. That fear seems overblown. Innovative, nimble private plans with well-integrated service systems might outperform any government plan, just as some now outperform Medicare through better coordination of services, stronger preventive care and broader benefits. A new public plan is neither the cornerstone of health care reform nor the death knell of private insurance. It should be tried as one element of comprehensive reform." [New York Times, 4/6/09; emphasis added]

Of course, with board members like this, it is in FreedomWorks' best interest to keep the private health insurance industry going.

FreedomWorks Fear Mongers About Rationing

FreedomWorks: "Proposed cost controls are another way of saying rationed health care.  The plans on the table would put politicians and bureaucrats in charge of health care decisions, deciding what treatment people should receive instead of leaving that up to your doctor." [FreedomWorks, 8/5/09]

Council "Will Not Recommend Clinical Guidelines."  The published guidelines for the Council are very clear about the decisions its members will make: The Federal Coordinating Council For Comparative Effectiveness Research "will not recommend clinical guidelines for payment, coverage or treatment." [HHS.gov, 3/19/09, emphasis added]

Comparative Effectiveness Research Is The Comparison Of Medical Treatments.  According to the Washington Post's Business Columnist, Steven Pearlstein, "comparative effectiveness research" refers to "research done by doctors and statisticians who troll through large number of patient records to determine, for any particular disease, which treatments work best." [Washington Post, 2/13/09]

Applied Properly, CER Empowers Patients To Make The Best Choices For Their Own Medical Care. In a post on U.S. News, Michelle Andrews wrote, "This is good stuff, not only for the medical establishment but also for patients, who are increasingly expected to play an active role in managing and paying for their healthcare." [USNews.com, 3/23/09]

The Private Health Insurance Industry Already Rations Care

Some Insurance Companies Treat Caesarean Sections As A Pre-Existing Condition.  According to the New York Times:  "Insurers' rules on prior Caesareans vary by company and also by state, since the states regulate insurers, said Susan Pisano of America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. Some companies ignore the surgery, she said, but others treat it like a pre-existing condition. 'Sometimes the coverage will come with a rider saying that coverage for a Caesarean delivery is excluded for a period of time,' Ms. Pisano said. Sometimes, she said, applicants with prior Caesareans are charged higher premiums or deductibles." [New York Times, 6/1/08]

Insurers Justify Exclusion Policies, Saying "They Need These Strategies To Protect Themselves."  The New York Times reported, "with individual coverage, insurers in many states can vary their prices based on medical history, exclude certain services or reject anyone they consider a bad risk...Insurers say they need these strategies to protect themselves, because some customers apply only after they get sick or pregnant, skewing the pool toward people with high expenses." [New York Times, 6/1/08]

Rather Than Waiting In Line, Americans Simply Do Not Get Care. As Ezra Klein argues in the Los Angeles Times, "although Britain and Canada have decided that no one will go without, even if some must occasionally wait, the U.S. has decided that most of us who can't afford care simply won't get it." [Los Angeles Times, 4/7/09, emphasis added]

FreedomWorks Uses Scare Tactics To Describe Cost Of Reform

FreedomWorks: "The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said one of the plans being discussed would exceed $1 trillion dollars [sic]! Combined with the fact that the government already has a big health care plan, Medicare, that is going bankrupt, this is reform we just can't afford." [FreedomWorks, 8/5/09]

Government-Administered Medicare Is Actually More Efficient Than Private Insurance. The Council for Affordable Health Insurance, "a research and advocacy association of insurance carriers," published a report stating: "Administrative costs are lower under Medicare than for private health insurance." The report added, "our best estimates indicate Medicare at slightly above 5% of total Medicare cost in 2003, whereas the government currently reports about 2%... The private market administrative costs are expected to remain at about 9% of total private insurance cost, excluding premium taxes, commissions, and profit. With such items, private costs would be slightly under 17%." [CAHI, Medicare versus Private Health Insurace: The Cost of Administration, 1/6/06]

CBO Director: Long Term Projections Difficult To Predict Accurately.  During a question and answer period following his testimony in front of the Senate Budget Committee, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said: "But it is very hard to look out over a very long term and say very accurate things about growth rates.  So most health experts that we talk with focus particularly on what is happening over the next 10 or 20 years, still a pretty long time period for projections..." [Hearing on CBO Long-Term Budget Outlook, 7/16/09]

CBO: House Bill Would Increase Revenue By $83 Billion And Result In A $65 Billion Net Increase In The Federal Deficit Over Ten Years.  In its letter to Chairman Rangel, the Congressional Budget Office wrote: "According to CBO's and JCT's assessment, enacting H.R. 3200 would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period.  That estimate reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill's insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion, partly offset by net spending changes that CBO estimates would save $219 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years.  By the end of the 10-year period, in 2019, the coverage provisions would add $202 billion to the federal deficit, CBO and JCT estimate.  That increase would be partially offset by net cost savings of $50 billion and additional revenues of $86 billion, resulting in a net increase in the deficit of an estimated $65 billion. It is important to note that the figures presented here do not represent a complete cost estimate for the coverage provisions of the legislation." [CBO.gov, 7/17/09; emphasis added]

FreedomWorks Implies That The Health Care Crisis Would Be Fixed By Allowing Americans To Purchase Health Insurance Across State Lines

FreedomWorks: "Competition is a good thing, but not when it means more government spending, borrowing, and higher taxes.  Congress can enact immediate health care reform by allowing people to purchase health insurance across state lines to find affordable plans that suit their needs, taking steps to curb lawsuit abuse, and expanding the availability of health savings accounts."  [FreedomWorks, 8/5/09]

New America Foundation: Family Health Coverage Will Be Nearly $25,000 By 2016.  According to the New America Foundation, under the current system of health care delivery in the United States, the full cost of an employer-based health plan for a family will be $24,291 by 2016.  [New America Foundation, The Cost of Doing Nothing, November 2008]

States Vary Greatly On The Types Of Regulations Imposed Upon Insurance Companies.  Bonnie Burns, Training and Policy Specialist for California Health Advocates, testified that "there is inconsistent regulatory authority from one state to another over insurance products offered for sale in each state, the premiums companies charge, and premium increases they impose. Although the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Model Act for Long- Term Care Insurance and Model Regulation to implement the Model Act serve as an advisory regulatory foundation for state laws and regulation, many state legislatures change or refuse to adopt certain provisions of those Models, if they adopt them at all...Regulatory authority and oversight as a result may be very strong in some states and minimal in others." [Congressional Quarterly, 7/24/08, emphasis added]

Individual Health Plans May Not Cover An Individual's Basic Needs.  The Washington Post reported: "If you have poor health, there can be a catch: Insurers can decline to offer you a policy, exclude coverage for certain conditions or charge you high premiums. Those with serious conditions such as HIV, cancer or diabetes, as well as those with common conditions such as obesity, can feel the snub. 'In the past four or five years, I've had people turned down just because of height and weight,' says Jerry Patt, an independent agent in Gaithersburg who has been in the business for more than 35 years. 'They could be having no medical problems whatsoever, but their build was not acceptable.'" [Washington Post, 6/22/07, emphasis added]

Many Americans Have Been Priced Out Of Health Care.  As Ezra Klein points out on his blog: "If you look at waiting times, you'll see that relatively few Americans wait more than four months for surgery, which helps folks claim that America doesn't ration care, and makes our system look pretty good on the waiting times metric. Here's what they don't tell you: When you look at who foregoes care, the international comparisons reverse themselves. About 23% of Americans report that they didn't receive care, or get a test due to cost. In Canada, that number is 5.5%." [Ezra Klein blog, American Prospect, 12/5/08, emphasis added]

American Families Already Faced With Cancer Diagnosis Also Have Difficulty Paying For Health Care.  According to a Lake Research Poll: "Half (52%) of families with a person under 65 who has had a cancer diagnosis say they have had difficulty paying for health care costs.  Additionally, close to half (47%) of those currently receiving cancer-related care has had difficulty affording care." [ACSCAN.org, 5/20/09]

For more information on the myths and facts of health insurance reform, click here.

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