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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health Care Myth Blasting #1

By Keith R. Schmitz

Let's dive into the murky world of the fear generated by the rad right courtesy of Media Matters.

MYTH 1: There is no health care crisis

CLAIM: The health care system currently works fine, and only a purportedly small number of uninsured people would benefit from reform.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: "There really isn't a crisis in health care in this country. The crisis in health care that -- if you wanna say, that does exist -- is the fear that a major illness or catastrophe could wipe you out, which isn't gonna change. In fact, the odds of you being wiped out by a catastrophe or accident once the government gets started running this stuff is greater than if the private sector -- but day-to-day, there's no health care crisis in this country. You can get it. So, it isn't about health care, per se. This is just about gaining control, taking money, and controlling people's lives, and wiping out Republicans -- a nice cherry on top." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/18/09]
STEVE DOOCY: "Currently, 90 percent of all Americans have got some sort of health care coverage, which means they are effectively blowing up the system for 5 percent. Now, the 5 percent, you gotta worry about them -- you gotta worry about everybody who doesn't have it. But is it worth all of this for 5 percent?" [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 7/30/09]
REALITY: Roughly 25 million Americans were underinsured in 2007. According to Cathy Schoen, senior vice president of The Commonwealth Fund, "From 2003 to 2007, the number of adults who were insured all year but were underinsured increased by 60 percent. Based on those who incur high out-of-pocket costs relative to their income not counting premiums despite having coverage all year, an estimated 25 million adults under age 65 were underinsured in 2007." [Testimony from Schoen before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 2/24/09]

The underinsured do not receive adequate care and face financial hardship. Schoen explained that the "experiences" of the underinsured were "similar" to those of the uninsured, noting that "over half of the underinsured and two thirds of the uninsured went without recommended treatment, follow-up care, medications or did not see a doctor when sick. Half of both groups faced financial stress, including medical debt." [Schoen testimony, 2/24/09]

Insurance companies currently rescind policies when their insured customers need treatment. Insurance companies restrict or deny coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that customers had undisclosed pre-existing conditions. On June 16, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing exploring this practice, with the goal of examining "the practice of 'post-claims underwriting,' which occurs when insurance companies cancel individual health insurance policies after providers submit claims for medical services rendered." The committee also released a memorandum finding that three major American insurance companies rescinded 19,776 policies for over $300 million in savings over five years and that even that number "significantly undercounts the total number of rescissions" by the companies.

Currently, insurance companies deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen wrote in a May 14 article, "According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21 percent of people who apply for health insurance on their own get turned down, charged a higher price or offered a plan that excludes coverage for their pre-existing condition. ... The health insurance industry doesn't deny that people are rejected or charged higher premiums because of pre-existing conditions."

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