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Health Insurance Reform Daily Mythbuster: 'Government Takeover' of Health Care

Health insurance reform opponents continue to spread myths about America's Affordable Health Choices Act, including the myth that health insurance reform lead to a “government takeover” of the health care system and rationed care for patients. 

MYTH: The House bill will lead to a “government takeover” of the health care system.

FACT:  Far from a “government takeover of health care,” America's Affordable Health Choices Act builds on the current private, employer-provided health care system we have now - and EXPANDS enrollment in private insurance.  Indeed, according to the independent, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, private insurance coverage will expand by 16 million Americans under the bill.

Rather than creating a “government takeover of health care,” the bill is designed to help make the health insurance market work better - improving competition and choice for consumers through the creation of a Health Insurance Exchange. 

Furthermore, while critics claim that millions of Americans will be forced into the new public health insurance option, the fact is that no one can be forced into the public plan.  All those choosing plans in the Health Exchange will have a range of options - various private plans and the public plan.  If an employer is providing their employees' health insurance through the Exchange, it is the employee - not the employer - choosing the plan.  The only way someone would be in the public plan is as a result of their own individual choice.  In fact, CBO projects that only 11 or 12 million Americans - or just over 3 percent - will actually choose the public option.

The new Health Insurance Exchange (created by the House bill) is a critical piece of health insurance reform. It will allow individuals to comparison shop for coverage - encouraging plans to compete on price and quality.  (During the early years of reform, the Exchange is solely for the uninsured, employees of small businesses, and the self-employed.)  One of the many choices of health insurance within the Exchange will be a public health insurance option.  It will provide needed competition to private insurers - including in the many areas of our country dominated by just one or two private insurers today.  The public option will operate on a level playing field.  It will be subject to the same market reforms and consumer protections as other private plans in the Exchange and it will be self-sustaining - financed only by its premiums.

Finally, many of the same voices spreading this myth most loudly are also lavishly praising America's largest government-run health care program: Medicare. 

MYTH:  A ‘government takeover of health care,' means government bureaucrats will ration care -- determining what treatments you can and cannot receive.

FACT: Under America's Affordable Health Choices Act, there is not one provision in the bill that gives any government agency the ability to determine what treatments an individual can receive.  The House bill will put patients and doctors where they belong - in the driver's seat.  Actually, care is being rationed now--by insurance companies--which are making coverage and care decisions based on profits, not what's best for patients.

Despite opponents' claims to the contrary, the bill's creation of a Health Benefits Advisory Committee will in no way ration care.  The committee does NOT have any role in determining what treatments individuals are entitled to; its primary role is simply to recommend the minimum benefit package insurers must offer under the bill, to protect consumers.

Similarly, comparative effectiveness research, which has been funded by the federal government for years, has nothing to do with rationing.  Instead, this research is simply about giving doctors information they need and want to better serve their patients.  The bill explicitly prohibits the Center for Comparative Effectiveness Research and the Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission from using this research to define, limit, or deny treatment or services.

The Pulitzer prize-winning PolitiFact website says it clearly:  “Some opponents, however, claim the government would use findings from this [comparative effectiveness] research to ration care. We looked into this issue in detail and concluded that claim is False.”