Myths Of Health Reform

Our View: Whether It's Because Of Honest Misunderstanding Or Cynical Manipulation By Opponents, Faleshoods Abound In The Debate Over Restructuring Health Care

August 09, 2009

There's a tantalizing rumor running through the Internet that the Democrats in Congress are conspiring to exempt themselves from the health care reform bills now being debated in Washington. It's caught life in talk boards and blogs among the substantial number of people who are terrified that the government is secretly trying to completely take over health care and deny necessary treatment to millions. The fact that it's not true doesn't seem to have made much of a dent in the hysteria, which is increasing in its fervor this month as representatives and senators fan across the country to talk about health care with citizens in town hall meetings, web chats and conference calls.

The origin of this particular conspiracy theory appears to lie with Louisiana Republican Congressman John Fleming, a physician, who is sponsoring a resolution calling for all members of Congress to be required to participate in the public health insurance option, if one is included in the health reform bill. His widely quoted press release on the matter reads, "Under the current draft of the Democrat healthcare legislation, members of Congress are curiously exempt from the government-run health care option, keeping their existing health plans and services on Capitol Hill."

sean_mckew@cardin.senate.gov is requested but not required), and Rep. John Sarbanes held a a series of telephone town hall meetings on health care last week.

Mr. Sarbanes says there are some pervasive falsehoods about the health reform proposals he's been trying to debunk: that the public health insurance option amounts to a government takeover of health care (the Congressional budget office estimates only about 10 million people will enroll in it by 2019); that Medicare will be taken away (that program would change relatively little); and, most disturbing of all, that doctors would be paid to perform euthenasia on the elderly (acutally, the plan would reimburse doctors for discussing end-of-life issues such as living wills with patients, which they now do for free).

"People are concerned about a lot of different things based on misinformation," Mr. Sarbanes says. "A lot of times they just haven't heard the other side of the story."

It's understandable, given the personal nature of health care, that people would be anxious about change. That's why it's so important for voters to use this month's congressional recess to get the truth about what's being proposed. On the Internet, talk radio and cable TV, the lines between speculation, opinion and fact are constantly blurred, and the rumor about the congressional exemption from the health care plan is the least of the misinformation floating around. Take some time, go to a town hall meeting, ask tough questions, but keep an open mind. Our current health care system is unsustainable and unfair, and we can't let fear and ignorance stop a chance for real reform.

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