Top 5 health care reform lies

August 11, 2009

I get e-mail from all sides — this one reflects a lot of my thinking, and came suitably footnoted:

Dear MoveOn member,

The health care fight has turned ugly, fast. Right-wing mobs are crashing congressional town halls,1 lies are spreading via anonymous email chains,2 and Sarah Palin bizarrely said that President Obama was going to set up a “death panel,” whatever that is.3

Many of these claims are just incredible—but if we don’t fight back with the truth, the right will continue to poison the health care debate. So as part of our Real Voices for Change campaign this August, we’re working to set the record straight.

Check out the list below: “Top Five Health Care Lies—and How to Fight Back.” Can you spread the word by passing this email along to 10 of your friends today?

Also, if you’re on Facebook, please post the list today by clicking here: If you’re on Twitter, retweet: @MoveOn Check out the Top 5 Health Care Lies—and How to Fight Back.

Top Five Health Care Reform Lies—and How to Fight Back

Lie #1: President Obama wants to euthanize your grandma!!!

The truth: These accusations—of “death panels” and forced euthanasia—are, of course, flatly untrue. As an article from the Associated Press puts it: “No ‘death panel’ in health care bill.”4 What’s the real deal? Reform legislation includes a provision, supported by the AARP, to offer senior citizens access to a professional medical counselor who will provide them with information on preparing a living will and other issues facing older Americans.5

Lie #2: Democrats are going to outlaw private insurance and force you into a government plan!!!

The truth: With reform, choices will increase, not decrease. Obama’s reform plans will create a health insurance exchange, a one-stop shopping marketplace for affordable, high-quality insurance options.6 Included in the exchange is the public health insurance option—a nationwide plan with a broad network of providers—that will operate alongside private insurance companies, injecting competition into the market to drive quality up and costs down.7

If you’re happy with your coverage and doctors, you can keep them.8 But the new public plan will expand choices to millions of businesses or individuals who choose to opt into it, including many who simply can’t afford health care now.

Lie #3: President Obama wants to implement Soviet-style rationing!!!

The truth: Health care reform will expand access to high-quality health insurance, and give individuals, families, and businesses more choices for coverage. Right now, big corporations decide whether to give you coverage, what doctors you get to see, and whether a particular procedure or medicine is covered—that is rationed care. And a big part of reform is to stop that.

Health care reform will do away with some of the most nefarious aspects of this rationing: discrimination for pre-existing conditions, insurers that cancel coverage when you get sick, gender discrimination, and lifetime and yearly limits on coverage.9 And outside of that, as noted above, reform will increase insurance options, not force anyone into a rationed situation. 

Lie #4: Obama is secretly plotting to cut senior citizens’ Medicare benefits!!!

The truth: Health care reform planswill not reduce Medicare benefits.10 Reform includes savings from Medicare that are unrelated to patient care—in fact, the savings comes from cutting billions of dollars in overpayments to insurance companies and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.11

Lie #5: Obama’s health care plan will bankrupt America!!!

The truth: We need health care reform now in order to preventbankruptcy—to control spiraling costs that affect individuals, families, small businesses, and the American economy.

Right now, we spend more than $2 trillion dollars a year on health care.12 The average family premium is projected to rise to over $22,000 in the next decade13—and each year, nearly a million people face bankruptcy because of medical expenses.14 Reform, with an affordable, high-quality public option that can spur competition, is necessary to bring down skyrocketing costs. Also, President Obama’s reform plans would be fully paid for over 10 years and not add a penny to the deficit.15

We’re closer to real health care reform than we’ve ever been—and the next few weeks will decide whether it happens. We need to make sure the truth about health care reform is spread far and wide to combat right wing lies.

Can you forward this email to your friends today? And remember, also post it on Facebook by clicking here: And on Twitter, by retweeting: @MoveOn Check out the Top 5 Health Care Lies—and How to Fight Back.

Thanks for all you do.

–Nita, Kat, Ilya, Michael and the rest of the team

P.S. Want more? Check out this great new White House “Reality Check” website: or this excellent piece from Health Care for America Now on some of the most outrageous lies:


1. “More ‘Town Halls Gone Wild’: Angry Far Right Protesters Disrupt Events With ‘Incomprehensible’ Yelling,” Think Progress, August 4, 2009.

2. “Fight the smears,” Health Care for America NOW, accessed August 10, 2009.

3. “Palin Paints Picture of ‘Obama Death Panel’ Giving Thumbs Down to Trig,” ABC News, August 7, 2009.

4. “No ‘death panel’ in health care bill,” The Associated Press, August 10, 2009.

5. “Stop Distorting the Truth about End of Life Care,” The Huffington Post, July 24, 2009.

6. “Reality Check FAQs,”, accessed August 11, 2009.

7. “Why We Need a Public Health-Care Plan,” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2009.

8. “Obama: ‘If You Like Your Doctor, You Can Keep Your Doctor,'” The Wall Street Journal, 15, 2009.

9. “Reality Check FAQs,”, accessed August 10, 2009.

10. “Obama: No reduced Medicare benefits in health care reform,” CNN, July 28, 2009.

11. “Reality Check FAQs,”, accessed August 10, 2009.

12. “Reality Check FAQs,”, accessed August 10, 2009.

13. “Premiums Run Amok,” Center for American Progress, July 24, 2009.

14. “Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies,” CNN, June 5, 2009.

15. “Reality Check FAQs,”, accessed August 10, 2009.

Sources for the Five Lies:

#1: “A euthanasia mandate,” The Washington Times, July 29, 2009.

#2: “It’s Not An Option,” Investor’s Business Daily, July 15, 2009.

#3: “Rationing Health Care,” The Washington Times, April 21, 2009.

#4: “60 Plus Ad Is Chock Full Of Misinformation,” Media Matters for America, August 8, 2009.

#5: “Obama’s ‘Public’ Health Plan Will Bankrupt the Nation,” The National Review, May 13, 2009.

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Palin proposes “death panels”

August 11, 2009

Isn’t that a fair headline?

She must be proposing them — they don’t show up in the health care bill before Congress.

Update: Over at Le-gal Ins-ur-rec-tion, Cornell Law prof William A. Jacobson dug out an article by Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ezekial, a respected bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, and suggests strongly that Palin is just contributing to the the debate.  In the paper (at Lancet, subscription required, but access to this paper is free because it’s so important), Dr. Emanuel and others discuss how to allocate health care resources to provide the greatest healing among many competing, worthy patients, when resources cannot be allocated to all of the worthy patients.  Jacobson said:

Put together the concepts of prognosis and age, and Dr. Emanuel’s proposal reasonably could be construed as advocating the withholding of some level of medical treatment (probably not basic care, but likely expensive advanced care) to a baby born with Down Syndrome. You may not like this implication, but it is Dr. Emanuel’s implication not Palin’s.

Jacobson misses the greater point here, the part the sticks in the craw of those of us who have lived with these issues for 20 years, or 30 or 40:  Dr. Emanuel’s paper discusses how to improve the current system of allocation of resources.

We aren’t debating whether to have “death panels.”  The discussion is on how to make them work more equitably, and how to expand health care resources to make the need for such decisions less frequent. Palin’s point is to defend unfair death panels used often.  She doesn’t know that, and Jacobson should realize that and not defend it.

Here’s the summary at Lancet:

Allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines is a persistent ethical challenge. We evaluate eight simple allocation principles that can be classified into four categories: treating people equally, favouring the worst-off, maximising total benefits, and promoting and rewarding social usefulness. No single principle is sufficient to incorporate all morally relevant considerations and therefore individual principles must be combined into multiprinciple allocation systems. We evaluate three systems: the United Network for Organ Sharing points systems, quality-adjusted life-years, and disability-adjusted life-years. We recommend an alternative system—the complete lives system—which prioritises younger people who have not yet lived a complete life, and also incorporates prognosis, save the most lives, lottery, and instrumental value principles.

He’s working to make the death panels more fair, more accurate, more beneficial.  Palin suggests we should leave the current system in place where Palin’s death panels, though working hard, often are unfair and inaccurate, and waste resources.

In the present system, resources generally are allocated first on the basis of who has money.  De facto, the system writes off to death anyone with a serious disease who is poor.  “Poor” in this case doesn’t mean destitute.  An annual income of $60,000 would put one into the category of “poor” I’m talking about here.

Jacobson said:

These critics, however, didn’t take the time to find out to what Palin was referring when she used the term “level of productivity in society” as being the basis for determining access to medical care. If the critics, who hold themselves in the highest of intellectual esteem, had bothered to do something other than react, they would have realized that the approach to health care to which Palin was referring was none other than that espoused by key Obama health care adviser Dr. Ezekial Emanuel (brother of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel).

I took the time to find out.  I knew in advance.  I’ve sat through hours of legislative hearings on this issue.  In my opinion, Sarah Palin is still a carbuncle on the face of this debate.  Her calling these panels “death panels” is designed to obfuscate the issues and deny the debate Jacobson says we need to have.  She’s providing heat for cheap political gain, not light.  She’s defending death, not life.

Shame on her.  Jacobson should know better, too.  I can all but guarantee that Palin didn’t read Dr. Emanuel’s paper, and didn’t consider the issues at all.  I’ll wager she does not know that hospitals in her state make these decisions regularly.

Under Palin’s way, death panels already exist. Death panels make decisions on life or death every day, and the poor and uninsured are at the bottom of the scale of who gets to live, top of the list of who gets to die.  Uninsured people often get shut out of the process, allocated pain and death from the start, because they lack insurance.

H.R. 3200 doesn’t do much to change this equation, the authors and legislators hoping to avoid cyanide politics like Palin plays; instead the bill encourages programs to help patients be on the “live if I want to live” side of the equation.  These encouraged programs should be bread and butter to legal clinics at most law schools, by the way — great help to the poor in anticipating what to do in life-threatening emergencies.  (I mention that because Jacobson is a clinical law professor — I don’t know which end of the legal clinics he works in, but he should know better anyway.)

We’ve already got the debate, and we already know that Palin’s trying to poison the well and fog up the lecturn, so that health care resources are misallocated.  In reality, this leads to more unnecessary and preventable deaths.

Yes, let’s have the debate:  Palin’s wrong to stand with unfair death decisions.  She’s had her say, and she should be held accountable.

Agree or disagree, invite others to join the discussion:

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