What Senators Think They Know about Health Care
... isn't so.


Ramesh Ponnuru

The Senate floor debate on health-care legislation has included a lot of confident assertions — many of them false.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), for example, said during floor debate that the uninsured impose a “hidden tax” of more than $1,000 per person. That claim, as regular readers of NRO already know, originated with a left-wing advocacy group.  A Kaiser Family Foundation study debunked the group’s analysis, reaching an estimate closer to $200 per year for a family. The Congressional Budget Office has joined in the debunking.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) said that half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills. A 2006 study found that only 9 percent of bankruptcies were primarily the result of medical bills. The study where Durbin’s claim originated used very loose criteria to classify bankruptcies as medical in nature; even in that study, only 29 percent of those surveyed blamed health expenses for their bankruptcies. (See here for more.)

Majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) attributed 45,000 deaths each year to lack of insurance.  Follow the links here to see why he’s wrong.

Durbin and Reid have both claimed that every day 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance. This claim originated with another left-wing outfit. It’s based on job losses at the peak of the recession. We’re not losing 14,000 jobs each day anymore. (Also, contrary to the senators’ implication, many of the people who have lost their jobs, and thus their health insurance, will get other jobs with health insurance.)

Several Democratic senators, including Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio), cited the low ranking that the World Health Organization gave to U.S. health care to make the case for an overhaul. Glen Whitman points out that “The WHO rankings depend crucially on a number of underlying assumptions — some of them logically incoherent, some characterized by substantial uncertainty, and some rooted in ideological beliefs and values that not everyone shares.”

Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) said that abolishing the limited antitrust exemption for insurance would reduce premiums. The Congressional Budget Office disagrees.

Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) has been a misinformation machine. “We’re clearly not going to do anything to cut home health care,” he has said. Tell it to the New York Times. “This bill does not raise taxes on the middle class.” It may not single out the middle class, but it does impose taxes that many middle-class people will pay: taxes on insurance policies and medical devices that will be passed on to consumers of all classes, fines for going without insurance that will be enforced by the IRS. “The [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] report shows that health reform will ensure that both the federal government and the American people spend less on health care than if this bill doesn’t pass.” Actually, CMS found that over the next ten years the bill would cause total health spending to increase by $234 billion cumulatively.

Here’s one more gem from Senator Baucus: “This bill does not increase government.” I trust that this one requires no refutation.