A Kansas health policy expert dissipated some of the myths circulating about health care reform.
Marcia Nielsen, Kansas University Medical Center vice chancellor for public policy and planning, spoke Wednesday night to about 175 people at the Dole Institute of Politics.
She said finding myths was an easy task. The difficult part was narrowing it down to a top 10 list. But here’s Nielsen’s list broken down by which party made the false claim or “stretched” the truth:
1. Health reform won’t raise the deficit one dime. While legislators are saying that the reform will pay for itself over time, Nielsen said it’s too soon to tell. “There’s lots of work left to do.”
2. You can keep your current insurance coverage or the doctor you have. “You may have a different insurance plan,” she said. “Small employers, which is under 20 employees, could buy insurance through the insurance exchange and possibly through the public option if there is one.”
3. The “public option” is only for those who are uninsured.
4. Health insurers deny payment for one of out every five treatments doctors prescribe.
5. Savings from Medicare to pay for reform won’t affect any seniors.
1. Health reform will lead to the government rationing your health care. She said there is no rationing in any of the current bills, but “that does not mean that everyone will have everything they want in their health reform or their health insurance in the long term.”
2. Non-U.S. citizens — illegal or not — will get free care. She said illegal citizens would not receive free care and there already are laws that prevent it.
3. Federal funding will be provided for abortion services. Nielsen said the claim is misleading because there currently are limited circumstances that allow for funding of abortions, such as in cases of incest and rape. So, health care reform would not be any different from current laws.
4. The individual health insurance mandate is unconstitutional. “Requiring citizens to buy something is a novel concept,” she said. “It hasn’t been tested in the courts. We fully suspect that it will be tested if this legislation is to pass into law.”
5. Health reform bills include “death panels” and mandatory end-of-life counseling. Nielsen said this was the biggest myth of all. “What is included is allowing the health care providers to be paid for spending the time with their patients and talking about end-of-life options. It’s not mandatory,” she said.
Nielsen, who served as executive director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority from 2006 to 2009, said health care reform is needed because we have an inefficient system.
“We require our hospitals to treat every person who walks in the emergency room door, and so we’ve got a system of cost shifting back and forth between the insured and uninsured,” she said. “We have a system that does not pay our doctors, our hospitals, our health providers to coordinate our care very well, and we’ve got a system that’s focused on sickness and not wellness.
“Our doctors and nurses make money the more we go in for treatment opposed to making more money if they absolutely kept us healthy.”
She is hopeful that some reform gets passed, but said there’s a lot of work to be done on a “terribly complicated” issue.