On Fox News today, Republican Senator John Cornyn refused to refute the ridiculous charge that health insurance reform would lead to rationing of care through “death panels” and continued to offer the same Republican lies on reform that we’ve been hearing for months.  While the President and Democrats continue to move forward with historic legislation to fix this country’s broken health insurance system, the Republican Party of NO led by the likes of John Cornyn continue to stand squarely on the side of the status quo – and the insurance companies and special interests who benefit from it.

ASKED ABOUT “DEATH PANELS,” CORNYN SAYS “THAT CERTAINLY IS SOMETHING WE WILL BE FOCUSING ON.”

RHETORIC: “PETER JACOBSON: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin made headlines warning about death panels. Now the Medicare provision has been found in the healthcare bill with changes. Will this lead to rationed care? Joining us from Washington, D.C. is John Cornyn. Senator, with regard to the death panel has anything changed? CORNYN: the 90-page bill, it was just introduced yesterday on the advice of Speaker Pelosi. I have to give her credit. At least she had the courage to post it online so we can read it as opposed to the Reid healthcare bill that is behind closed doors, and we haven’t even seen it yet.” JACOBSON: So, with regard to the “death panel” nothing much has changed…” CORNYN:  Well, we haven’t been able to read the bill in its entirety because it is 2,000 pages long. So that certainly is something we will be focusing on.” [Fox & Friends, 10/30/09]

REALITY: “DEATH PANELS” CLAIM HAS BEEN REPEATEDLY DISMISSED, INCLUDING BY LEADING REPUBLICANS

Politifact: Palin’s Statement That Seniors And The Disabled Would Have To Sit In Front Of A “Death Panel” Is “Pants On Fire.” “Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, urged her supporters to oppose Democratic plans for health care reform on her Facebook page. … We have read all 1,000-plus pages of the Democratic bill and examined versions in various committees. There is no panel in any version of the health care bills in Congress that judges a person’s ‘level of productivity in society’ to determine whether they are ‘worthy’ of health care. Palin’s claim sounds a little like another statement making the rounds, which says that health care reform would mandate counseling for seniors on how to end their lives sooner. We rated this claim Pants on Fire! The truth is that the health bill allows Medicare, for the first time, to pay for doctors’ appointments for patients to discuss living wills and other end-of-life issues with their physicians. These types of appointments are completely optional, and AARP supports the measure. … But that’s not what Palin said. She said that the Democratic plan will ration care and “my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.” Palin’s statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!” [Politifact, 8/10/09]

Sen. Frist Said “Death Panels And Public Plan Arguments Have Been Overblown,” Noted That Republicans Offered A Public Plan Trigger Option For Medicare Prescription Drug Bill. In an interview with Time magazine, Sen. “Frist also faults some in his own party for injecting alarmism into the debate. ‘Clearly, the death panels and public plan arguments have been overblown,’ he says. Frist noted that Republicans themselves voted for a Medicare prescription drug bill that would have established a version of a public plan–with the government negotiating directly with drug companies–if private-sector competition had failed to materialize. That is similar to the approach that Republican Senator Olympia Snowe is taking with her amendment to establish a public option with a ‘trigger.’” [Time, 10/2/09]

Sen. Murkowski: “It Does Us No Good To Incite Fear In People By Saying There’s These End-Of-Life Provisions, These Death Panels. Quite Honestly, I’m So Offended At That Terminology Because It Absolutely Isn’t [In The Bill].” “U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday told an Anchorage crowd that critics of health care reform, the summer’s hottest political topic, aren’t helping the debate by throwing out highly charged assertions not based in fact. ‘It does us no good to incite fear in people by saying that there’s these end-of-life provisions, these death panels,’ Murkowski, a Republican, said. ‘Quite honestly, I’m so offended at that terminology because it absolutely isn’t (in the bill). There is no reason to gin up fear in the American public by saying things that are not included in the bill.’” [McClatchy, 8/12/09]

Rep. Brown-Waite Said The Provision “Doesn’t Say That They’re Going To Receive Counseling On Euthanasia, That’s Not What It Says” And That “Opponents Are Slinging Around… Scare Tactics.” “Attention seniors, President Obama is not coming to kill you. So says U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who was recently recognized by the leading senior citizens advocacy group for trying to debunk one of the persistent myths about the current health insurance reform bill in Congress. And Brown-Waite is no shill for the administration. In fact, the Brooksville Republican, whose district includes Dunnellon and Rainbow Lakes Estates, is a harsh critic of Obama’s proposed health care overhaul. Brown-Waite disputed that in a recent interview with WDBO-AM, a conservative talk radio station in Orlando. ‘It doesn’t say that they’re going to receive counseling on euthanasia, that’s not what it says,’ Brown-Waite told the station, according to a July 29 blog post. The station also reported that, according to Brown-Waite, lawmakers were not considering ‘some of the gruesome options opponents are slinging around as scare tactics.’ ‘I do not believe that Americans would ever accept end-of-life care advice that included any form of ways to end one’s life,’ Brown-Waite added.” [Star-Banner, 8/11/09]

Sen. Johnny Isakson Slammed Sarah Palin For Suggesting That An End Of Life Directive Or A Living Will Was A Death Panel And Said She Was “Nuts.” “How did this become a question of euthanasia?” Sen. Johnny Isakson replied: “I have no idea. I understand — and you have to check this out — I just had a phone call where someone said Sarah Palin’s web site had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up.” [Washington Post, 8/11/09]

CORNYN SAYS THERE WILL BE A GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER OF HEALTH CARE, INCLUDING RATIONING

RHETORIC: “The concern of course is with trying to contain costs from the government run healthcare and invariably rations healthcare and we don’t want government intervening in the decisions that ought to be made by family, on behalf of their loved ones.” [Fox & Friends, 10/30/09]

REALITY: GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BE RUNNING HEALTH CARE, WILL NOT BE RATIONING CARE, WILL NOT BE INTERVENING IN MEDICAL DECISIONS

Fox’s Shep Smith To Sen. John Barrasso: “It’s Not A Government Takeover, Senator! That’s Not Fair And We Both Know It.” Fox News’ Shep Smith confronted Sen. John Barrasso over his boilerplate GOP talking points calling health reform a “government takeover,” and said: “SMITH: It’s not a government takeover, Senator! That’s not fair and we both know it. It’s not a government takeover because what it would be is a government option if you have insurance now and you like it you can keep it…That’s not a government take over if we’re being fair is it, Senator?…As the costs have gone up, the insurance industry’s profits on average have gone up more than 350 percent and it’s the insurance companies which have paid and have contributed to Senators and congressman on both sides of the aisle to the point where now, we can’t get…what more than 60 percent of Americans say they support, is a public option. This has been an enormous win for the health care industry. That is an unquestioned fact.” [FOX News, 10/6/09]

Dr. Sanjay Gupta On Rationing: “It’s Not True…A Look At The Reform Bill In Congress There Is No Mention Of That. No Mention Of Rationing, No Mention Of The Government Making So-Called End-Of-Life Decisions For Seniors.” “GUPTA: Tell me why. MCCOY: I try not to worry. Well, I have read some things that says that as you get older you are liable to wait and wait and wait before you can have surgery. I’ve heard that they’re going to look at the older people and you’re going to wait longer than the younger people. GUPTA (voice-over): It’s not true, though a lot of people think so. A look at the reform bill in Congress there is no mention of that. No mention of rationing, no mention of the government making so-called end-of-life decisions for seniors.” [CNN Anderson Cooper 360, 11PM, 8/14/09]

NYT: “The Case Against Rationing Isn’t Really A Substantive Argument. It’s A Clever Set Of Buzzwords That Tries To Hide The Fact That Societies Must Make Choices.” The New York Times’ David Leonhardt wrote a piece debunking the argument against health care reform under the specter of “rationing,” and said, “I want to try to explain why the case against rationing isn’t really a substantive argument. It’s a clever set of buzzwords that tries to hide the fact that societies must make choices.” [New York Times, 6/17/09]

CORNYN CLAIMS SMALL BUSINESSES WILL BE HEAVILY TAXED

RHETORIC: “With regard to the secretary Sebelius’s comments that these healthcare proposals will lower costs, just the opposite is true. Look for example at the surtax in the house bill on people who are supposedly very wealthy. That captures a lot of small businesses that pay will you subchapter S corporations with flow-through income. These are not wealthy people. They are the job creators in the country and they are being hurt by the proposals.” [Fox & Friends, 10/30/09]

REALITY: CORNYN IS WRONG; SURTAX WILL IMPACT .3 PERCENT OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS, THOSE MAKING OVER $1 MILLION PER COUPLE

President Obama: “About 90 Percent Of All Small Businesses Would Be Exempt From [Employer Insurance Requirement.” President Obama in remarks on small businesses and health reform said, “it is true that when reform becomes law, businesses of a certain size who do not offer their workers health coverage may be required to contribute to the costs. Opponents of reform have tried to use this to mislead small business owners by claiming that you would be subject to this penalty. But the fact is, about 90 percent of all small businesses would be exempt from this requirement – about 90 percent. So, if your business is anything like the vast majority of small businesses out there, this requirement simply won’t apply to you – because I don’t think it’s fair to impose a penalty on small businesses.” [Remarks By President, 10/29/09]

Surtax Threshold Is At $500,000 For Individuals, $1,000,000 For Couples. The Los Angeles Times reported on the new Democratic House reform will: “The bill will be funded largely by a combination of cuts in Medicare — many of them designed to make the program more efficient — and a 5.4% surtax on individual taxpayers making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $1 million.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/29/09]

Tax Change Would Affect .3 Percent of Households. “Americans earning more than $500,000, or couples taking in more than $1 million annually, would face a 5.4 percent tax, to raise $460.5 billion. The Senate version contains no such tax. The provision would impact 0.3 percent of all U.S. households, according to a Joint House-Senate tax panel.” [Reuters, 10/29/09]

REALITY: SMALL BUSINESSES WILL BENEFIT GREATLY FROM REFORM

CBO: Finance Committee Bill Could Save Small Businesses Up To 28 Percent On Health Insurance Premiums. In a report released on Healthreform.gov, it was noted that, “[w]ithout reform, current data trended forward indicate that by 2016, average health insurance premiums for a single policy in a firm with less than 50 employees will be approximately $6,700. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the premium for the second-lowest cost ‘silver’ single policy in the amended Senate Finance health insurance reform bill would be $5,000. This means that with health insurance reform, the average small business would have an option to choose a lower cost plan in the exchange. Choosing that option could save 25 percent on the premium of a single policy.  For smaller firms with less than 10 employees, the savings could be even higher, at 28 percent.” [How Health Reform Will Bring Down Costs For Small Businesses, 10/28/09]

Finance Committee Bill And House Tri-Committee Bills Created Small Business Tax Credit, Ends Hidden Tax On Small Businesses Of $1,000 Per Employee That Already Provide Health Insurance. [How Health Reform Will Bring Down Costs For Small Businesses, 10/28/09]

Study: No Health Insurance Reform Means Small Businesses Will Pay Nearly $2.4 Trillion In Healthcare Costs, Cost 178,000 Jobs. The Small Business Majority study commissioned a study from noted economist from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jonathan Gruber. The study found that, “without reform, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion dollars over the next ten years in healthcare costs for their workers. With reform, the study shows that small businesses can save as much as $855 billion, a reduction of 36 percent, money that can be reinvested to grow the economy.” The study also found that without reform, 178,000 small business jobs will be lost in 2018 as a result of healthcare costs, and with reform, up to 128,000 of those jobs could be saved. [The Economic Impact of Healthcare Reform on Small Business, 6/11/09]

Chamber Of Commerce: “The Reality With The Business Community Is That We Want Reform, While Some Republicans Want To Stop This Train And Start Over.” The Wall Street Journal reported on the Chamber Of Commerce’s relatively positive reaction to Chairman Baucus’ health reform proposal: “‘The reality with the business community is that we want reform, while some Republicans want to stop this train and start over,’ said Bruce Josten, the chamber’s chief lobbyist. ‘That is just not going to happen.’” [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/09]

National Small Business Association: “Health-Care Reform Can Not Wait Yet Another Year.” “Health-care reform topped the list of small-business priorities when members of the National Small Business Association voted recently on issues they want Congress and President Barack Obama to address. The group said it supports ‘broad health-care reform’ that will reduce costs, improve quality, create a fair sharing of health-care costs, and focus on individuals’ responsibilities as health-care consumers. ‘Given the current state of the U.S. economy, the fact that our members voted health-care reform their number one priority ought to send a strong message to Congress,’ NSBA President Todd McCracken said in a written statement. ‘Health-care reform can not wait yet another year.’” [Orlando Sentinel, 3/9/09]

Founder And CEO Of Small Business: “The Notion That Health Care Reform Is Bad For Small Businesses Is Little More Than A Purposefully Misleading Bag Of Rhetoric That Has Nothing To Do With The Real Issues Facing Small Businesses.” Jonathan Weber, the “founder, publisher, and CEO of New West,” a media company, wrote about his perspective about the need for health insurance reform for small businesses: “The National Federation of Independent Businesses says small businesses should oppose the legislation because it ‘fails to lower’ health care costs, ignoring the fact that there are a lot of issues here besides cost (see above)… the notion that health care reform is bad for small businesses is little more than a purposefully misleading bag of rhetoric that has nothing to do with the real issues facing small businesses. I desperately hope that most business owners see through it and communicate with their elected representatives accordingly.” [The Big Money, 7/27/09]

CORNYN CLAIMS REFORM WILL CUT MEDICARE PAYMENTS FOR SENIORS AND RAISE PREMIUMS

RHETORIC: “The administration has obviously taken a lot of public opinion polls and they have done focus groups to find out what kind of language helps sell the proposal. The problem the descriptions you hear from the president himself and his cabinet bear no resemblance to the bills we see. The bills will cut Medicare payments for seniors, raise premiums for — raise premiums and increase tax on the mill class. Those — middle class. Those are contradictory to the promises we have had heard.” [Fox & Friends, 10/30/09]

REALITY: REFORM DOES NOT CUT MEDICARE PAYMENTS FOR SENIORS

GOP Opposition To Medicare Advantage Competitive Bidding Is Interesting: “Republicans Have Mounted A Ferocious Defense Of The Market’s Right To Continue Burning Through Taxpayer Dollars.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein commented on Republican anger at the prospect of competitive bidding to lower overpayments to Medicare Advantage programs: “[i]t is also an interesting moment of insight into the conservative philosophy on these matters. The problem with government programs, we’re often told, is that they are expensive and wasteful, and the private market could do better. But faced with an instance where the government program proved relatively lean and efficient, and the private market expensive and wasteful, Republicans have mounted a ferocious defense of the market’s right to continue burning through taxpayer dollars.” [Washington Post – Ezra Klein, 9/24/09]

Politifact: The House Health Care Bill Would Change Benchmarks Set To Payments In Medicare Advantage, Making Them Equal To What The Government Pays For Traditional Medicare Services. “Obama also wants to save money on the Medicare Advantage program, which covers about one-fifth of all Medicare patients. ‘We do think that systems like Medicare are very inefficient right now, but it has nothing to do at the moment with issues of benefits,’ Obama said in his speech in New Hampshire. ‘The inefficiencies all come from things like paying $177 billion to insurance companies in subsidies for something called Medicare Advantage that is not competitively bid, so insurance companies basically get a $177 billion of taxpayer money to provide services that Medicare already provides. And it’s no better — it doesn’t result in better health care for seniors. It is a giveaway of $177 billion.’ Indeed, a June 2009 MedPAC analysis said that the Advantage plan costs taxpayers on average of 14 percent more than the traditional Medicare plan. The House bills propose to change the benchmarks that set the payments, making them equal to what the government pays for traditional Medicare services. According to the Congressional Budget Office, those changes would translate to a savings of $156 billion over 10 years. [Politifact, 8/14/09]

AP: Under The Finance Bill, Medicare Coverage For Doctors, Hospitals And Other Basic Services Would Remain Fully Intact, With No Reductions In Benefits. “In its assaults on a Democratic health care overhaul bill, the insurance industry uses facts selectively and mixes accurate assertions with misleading spin and an embrace of worst-case scenarios. … The budget office’s director, Douglas Elmendorf, has said that as a result of the proposed cuts, the extra benefits Medicare Advantage recipients receive would be halved over the next decade. But the ad leaves unspoken the fact that under the Finance bill, Medicare coverage for doctors, hospitals and other basic services would remain fully intact, with no reduction in benefits.” [AP, 10/14/09]

REALITY: REFORM WOULD STRENGTHEN MEDICARE, ADD BENEFITS FOR SENIORS

New York Times: Reform Will Enhance Drug Coverage, Reduce Premiums, and Help Keep Medicare Solvent. “Far from harming elderly Americans, the various reform bills now pending should actually make Medicare better for most beneficiaries — by enhancing their drug coverage, reducing the premiums they pay for drugs and medical care, eliminating co-payments for preventive services and helping keep Medicare solvent, among other benefits.” [New York Times, Editorial, 9/27/09]

Finance Committee Bill Will Provide Medicare Beneficiaries Significant Help in Purchasing Prescription Drugs When They Hit the Coverage Gap or “Donut Hole.” “Medicare beneficiaries who enroll in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program will receive significant help purchasing prescription drugs when they hit the coverage gap portion, or ‘donut hole’ of the benefit. Instead of paying 100 percent of their drug costs in the gap, Part D beneficiaries with low to moderate incomes will receive a 50 percent discount on the price of brand?name drugs covered by their plan. The discount makes expensive medicines more affordable and helps beneficiaries stay on treatments that their doctors prescribe” [Finance Committee Press Release, 9/16/09]

The Finance Committee Bill Will Move Medicare Toward Paying for Quality and Value of Care, Rather Than Volume. “Medicare currently reimburses health care providers on the basis of the volume of care they provide. For every test, scan or procedure conducted, providers receive payment – regardless of whether the treatment contributes to helping a patient recover. Medicare must move to a system that reimburses health care providers based on the quality of care they provide. The Chairman’s Mark includes various proposals to move the Medicare fee?for?service system towards paying for quality and value.” [Finance Committee Press Release, 9/16/09]

AARP Lead Lobbyist On Medicare Advantage Competitive Bidding: “We Think The Proposals Actually Will Improve Access And Quality,” Not Cut Benefits. The Boston Globe reported that, “[t]he $120 billion cut to Medicare Advantage is part of spending reductions in Medicare totaling $460 billion to $540 billion over 10 years that have been proposed by Democrats. The cuts would fall on the government reimbursement rates for a broad variety of providers such as hospitals and home health agencies, which could probably absorb them without affecting the services elderly Americans receive, many specialists said in interviews. Though some industry groups complain the spending reductions are too severe, adjustments could be made if problems arose because they would be phased in gradually. Most are aimed at making the programs more efficient. ‘We think the proposals actually will improve access and quality,’ John Rother, a leading lobbyist for the AARP, the large lobbying organization for senior citizens, said in an e-mail.” [Boston Globe, 9/24/09]

REALITY: REFORM DOES NOT RAISE PREMIUMS

Chamber Of Commerce On Baucus Proposal: A Bill “That Will Actually…Get Health-Care Costs Under Control.” The Wall Street Journal reported that, “[t]he U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents about three million businesses of all sizes, has run television ads opposing the Democratic-led health-care push. And the chamber, like many other big business groups in Washington, has many concerns about the Baucus bill, particularly the taxes it proposes to help pay for its $774 billion Congressional Budget Office price tag over 10 years. But the chamber applauded much of the Baucus bill as the first proposal ‘that will actually…get health-care costs under control.’” [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/09]

MIT Health Economist: Based On CBO Model, Premiums Under SFC Proposal For A Family Could Be At Least $2,430 Lower, Up To $8,550 Lower Than Without Reform. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein reported on estimated impact on premiums of the Senate Finance Committee proposal, finding that under current law, premiums would stay at $10,770 under current law, while premiums under the new proposal could be as low as $2,220 and would rise to only $8,340. He further wrote that, “[t]he analysis comes from MIT health economist Jon Gruber. Gruber is, undoubtedly, pro-reform. He’s advised the Senate Finance Committee and served as one of the architects of the Massachusetts plan. But he’s also one of the most-respected health economists in the country. Gruber runs the numbers for an average family, a 25-year-old and a 60-year-old, looking at different income levels for each, and paying close attention to the role subsidies will play. In each case, he finds the people likely to save money under the Senate Finance Committee’s plan. You can download his analysis, which is based on Congressional Budget Office data, here… Gruber certainly has a lot less incentive to twist the facts than the insurance industry does, and his numbers, at least, are free from any glaring deficiencies.” [Washington Post – Ezra Klein, 10/12/09]

REALITY: REFORM BENEFITS THE MIDDLE CLASS ENORMOUSLY

Conservative Tax Foundation Was Outraged: House Health Reform Proposal Would Net Middle-Class Families “An Average Benefit Of About $1,900.” The Tax Foundation decried the “income redistribution” facilitated by the House health reform legislation: “[t]he biggest beneficiaries of HR 3200’s redistribution would not be low-income families, but middle-class families, especially those making between $65,704 and $112,721, who would see an average benefit of about $1,900. In fact, even in the 60 percent to 70 percent income group, earning up to $141,101, the average family would gain almost $1,000.” [Tax Foundation Press Release, 10/6/09]

“Consumers Would Be Spared Having To Pay Huge Medical Bills Under Democratic Health care Legislation,” House Bill Caps Out-Of-Pocket Expenses At $5,000 For Individual, $10,000 For Family. McClatchy News reported that, “[c]onsumers would be spared having to pay huge medical bills under Democratic health care legislation that’s moving through Congress, as lawmakers agree on the need to put limits on how much people would pay out of their own pockets… Bills pending before the House and the Senate would set different limits, but virtually everyone agrees on a key principle: ‘You shouldn’t go bankrupt’ because of your medical costs, said Elizabeth Carpenter, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation, a center-left research center…The House bill would cap annual out-of-pocket medical expenses at $5,000 per individual and $10,000 per family starting in 2013. New plans offered through new employers, as well as policies sold through the proposed health insurance exchange, a marketplace where consumers can compare plans and prices, would be subject to limits.” [McClatchy, 10/29/09

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