July 3, 2012

Checking facts on opposing claims about health care law

President Obama and Mitt Romney both make arguments -- likely to continue until November -- based on suspect data.

By CALVIN WOODWARD and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

• OBAMA: "And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses and not enough on your health care."

THE FACTS: Rebates are coming, but not nearly that many Americans are likely to get those checks and for many of those who do, the amount will be decidedly modest.

The government acknowledges it does not know how many households will see rebates in August from a provision of the law that makes insurance companies give back excess money spent on overhead instead of health care delivery. Altogether, the rebates that go out will benefit nearly 13 million people. But most of the benefit will be indirect, going to employers because they cover most of the cost of insurance provided in the workplace.

Employers can plow all the rebate money, including the workers' share, back into the company's health plan, or pass along part of it.

The government says some 4 million people who are due rebates purchased coverage directly from an insurance company, not through an employer, and are the most likely to get a rebate check directly.

The government says the rebates have an average value of $151 per household. But employers, who typically pay 70 to 80 percent of premiums, are likely to get most of that.

• ROMNEY: "Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion."

THE FACTS: The tax increases fall heavily on upper-income people, health insurance companies, drug makers and medical device manufacturers.

People who fail to obtain health insurance as required by the law will face a tax penalty, although that's expected to hit relatively few because the vast majority of Americans have insurance and many who don't will end up getting it. Also, a 10 percent tax has been imposed on tanning bed use as part of the health care law. There are no other across-the-board tax increases in the law, although some tax benefits such as flexible savings accounts are scaled back. Of course, higher taxes on businesses can be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

Individuals making over $200,000 and couples making over $250,000 will pay 0.9 percent more in Medicare payroll tax and a 3.8 percent tax on investments. As well, a tax starts in 2018 on high-value insurance plans.

• OBAMA: "Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parents' health care plans, a provision that's already helped 6 million young Americans."

THE FACTS: Obama is overstating this benefit of his health law, and his own administration knows better. The Department of Health and Human Services, in a June 19 news release, said 3.1 million young adults would be uninsured were it not for the new law. Obama's number comes from a June 8 survey by the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy foundation. It said 6.6 million young adults joined or stayed on their parents' health plans who wouldn't have been able to absent the law. But that number includes some who switched to their parents' plans from other coverage, Commonwealth Fund officials told the Los Angeles Times.

• ROMNEY: "Obamacare is a job-killer."

THE FACTS: The CBO estimated in 2010 that the law would reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by roughly half a percent.

But that's mostly because the law will give many people the opportunity to retire, stay at home with family or switch to part-time work, since they will be able to get health insurance more easily outside of their jobs. That voluntary retreat from the work force is not the same as employers slashing jobs because of the law's costs, as Romney implies.

The law's penalties on employers who don't provide health insurance might cause some companies to hire fewer low-wage workers or to hire more part-timers instead of full-time employees, the budget office said. But the main consequence would still be from more people choosing not to work.

Apart from the budget office and other disinterested parties that study the law, each side in the debate uses research sponsored by interest groups, often slanted, to buttress its case. Romney cites a Chamber of Commerce online survey in which nearly three-quarters of respondents said the law would dampen their hiring. The chamber's poll was conducted unscientifically and is not a valid measure of business opinion.

 

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