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Health Insurance Reform Mythbuster: Boon for Liberal Special Interests?

Health insurance reform opponents continue to spread myths about components of America's Affordable Health Choices Act. Yesterday, House Republican Leader Boehner issued a “GOP Leader Alert” claiming that the House Democrats' reform bill is “loaded up with special-interest giveaways” — designed to be “a boon to unions, trial lawyers, and even ACORN.”

These GOP claims of “special-interest giveaways” raise the GOP campaign of misinformation and distortion about this bill to a whole new level of absurdity. Boehner lists six specific provisions of the bill as “special-interest giveaways” — in each case taking a useful, constructive provision of the bill and completely misstating what it does. As shown below, each of these six GOP myths are completely false.

Myth #1: A provision (Section 205) requiring the Health Choices Commissioner to publicize the various health insurance options available on the newly-established Health Insurance Exchange is actually a liberal, special-interest provision designed to benefit ACORN.

Fact: The nonpartisan PolitiFact labels this myth as FALSE. What is discussed in the bill is requiring the Health Choices Commissioner to publicize the new options that would be available on the Health Insurance Exchange. As part of this outreach effort, the commissioner is permitted to partner with entities to disseminate information. As PolitiFact states:

The legislation says the commissioner 'may work with other appropriate entities to facilitate the dissemination of information.' The legislation does not mention ACORN.

In fact, the entities helping to disseminate information could even include private insurance companies. So much for a liberal handout!

Myth #2: A provision (Section 123) setting up a Health Benefits Advisory Committee is designed give labor unions extra clout and is a liberal, special-interest provision to benefit labor unions.

Fact: This provision says nothing about labor unions and instead includes an extensive list of ALL the stakeholders that should be represented on the Health Benefits Advisory Committee. Specifically, the provision states:

The membership of the Health Benefits Advisory Committee shall at least reflect [health care] providers, consumer representatives, employers, labor, health insurance issuers, experts in health care financing and delivery, experts in racial and ethnic disparities, [and other enumerated experts.]

Clearly, this bill requires an advisory committee representing a broad range of interests — with who represents employees left undefined in the bill.

Myth #3: A provision (Section 154) simply clarifying that nothing in the bill undermines current rights to collective bargaining actually provides preferential treatment to unionized workers under the bill and is a liberal, special-interest provision to benefit labor unions.

Fact: There is nothing in the bill that provides preferential treatment to unionized employers and unionized workers. Unionized employers (and workers) and non-unionized employers (and workers) are treated precisely the same under this bill and are subject to precisely the same provisions.

Myth #4: A provision (contained in Section 1412) to require the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of whether any nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities are “undercapitalized” — in order to ensure that adequate resources are being dedicated to quality of care, including staffing and food costs — is a liberal, special-interest provision to benefit trial lawyers.

Fact: This provision (Section 1412) is simply designed to ensure that our senior citizens are receiving the best care possible at the nation's nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities — including ensuring that each facility has adequate staffing, adequate training, and adequate resources to ensure seniors are receiving the quality care they deserve. To claim that this GAO study is a “special-interest provision for trial lawyers” (providing trial lawyers new grounds for suing these facilities) is truly laughable.

Myth #5: A provision (Section 1413) to require HHS to include certain information about nursing home facilities and skilled nursing facilities on its website, in order to ensure nursing home quality and improve accountability, is a liberal, special-interest provision to benefit labor unions.

Fact: Like Myth #4, this myth takes Republican myths to a new level of absurdity. Republicans claim that this provision (Section 1413) “requires the HHS Secretary to consult with labor unions representing workers at the facility in reviewing the information.” This is simply FALSE. The provision never mentions labor unions. Rather, the provision simply requires HHS to consult with state long-term care ombudsman programs, consumer advocacy groups, provider stakeholder groups, and other representatives of groups that HHS determines appropriate.

Myth #6: A provision (Section 2531) that establishes a nurse training grant program to meet the severe shortage of nurses is a liberal, special-interest provision to benefit labor unions.

Fact: This provision (Section 2531) is a critically important provision that is designed to meet the severe shortage of nurses across the country by creating a federal grant program for the training of nurses. The Republican myth claims that, under the provision, entities would have to work with labor unions to qualify for grants. This is simply FALSE. Under the provision, there are several types of entities that would qualify for nurse training grants — with only certain of those entities being those jointly administered by a health care employer and a labor union.

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