With A New Congress, It's High Time For Some Health Overhaul Facts : Shots - Health News We look closely at claims made by Republicans and Democrats about the health law -- from Rep. Michele Bachmann's statement on its cost to Rep. Nancy Pelosi's contention of its benefits.
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With A New Congress, It's High Time For Some Health Overhaul Facts

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With A New Congress, It's High Time For Some Health Overhaul Facts

With A New Congress, It's High Time For Some Health Overhaul Facts

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The debate over the health-care overhaul is back in full force. House Republicans will take a preliminary vote tomorrow on a bill called Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act. That's the actual title of that bill.

So we thought we'd bring back one of our more popular features from last year's health debate, and attempt to determine the accuracy of some of the claims each side is making. And we're going to be hearing from both Democrats and Republicans.

And joining me here in the studio, as always, is NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner.

And Julie, let's get right to it.


NORRIS: This morning, on NBC's "Today Show," Minnesota Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann had this to say about the health law.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Today Show")

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): We found out that the bill is costing far more than what we were told it was going to, and it's now working to increase people's health-care premiums, their private premiums, at astounding rates.

NORRIS: Now, Julie, how accurate are those claims?

ROVNER: Well, not all that accurate. As to the cost, the Congressional Budget Office just this morning released its estimate of how much it would add to the deficit to repeal the health law. Remember, the CBO said last year that the law would actually save money over time - not just over 10 years but over the decade following that.

It now says that repealing the health law would add about $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade, and it would add even more in the decade following. As to raising premiums, yes, premiums are going up, but it's mostly not because of the health law. The things that that law is supposed to do to slow down premium increases haven't actually kicked in yet. So last year's premium increases mostly would have happened anyway - with the law or without it.

NORRIS: Let's move on, Julie. We're also hearing a familiar refrain from Republicans about the bill. Here's new Majority Leader Eric Cantor, speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia; House Majority Leader): It is a job-killing health-care bill that spends money we don't have. And we need to repeal it, and replace it with the kind of health care that most Americans expect.

NORRIS: Julie, I want to focus on the first thing he said. Is there any evidence that the law is actually job-killing?

ROVNER: Well, certainly not now. Mostly, what the Republicans are talking about is what will happen starting in 2014, and that's when these requirements for employers kick in. There are some requirements -indeed, if you have more than 50 employees, that - not that you have to offer insurance, but if you do not offer insurance and your employees go to these new exchanges and get insurance, then employers will have to pay a penalty.

And so they say that that will kill jobs. Now, there are other economists who say that if the law works as intended and at least stabilizes how much premiums cost, that it could, in fact, help the economy. And it could add jobs.

NORRIS: Let's stay at that Tuesday press conference for just a minute. Cantor also said this about the law's popularity.

Rep. CANTOR: This is a bill that most Americans outside the Beltway - and certainly, most people inside the Beltway - know is something that is rejected by the majority of the people.

NORRIS: Has it been rejected by the majority of the people?

ROVNER: Well, it's certainly being rejected by a majority of Republicans. Most polls put it at about nine to one, with Republicans against it.

But when you look at polls of voters at large, it's still pretty well split. And in fact, among those who say they oppose the law, a certain portion of them say they oppose the law because they're - that it didn't go far enough.

So for him to say that it's been rejected by a majority of the American people, that may be a little bit of an overstatement.

NORRIS: Now, you know, when we talk about the law's popularity, Democrats have also made statements that, I guess, we should assess as well.

Along those lines, here's something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told Robert Siegel earlier this week.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; House Minority Leader): Individual parts of the bill are very popular: pre-existing conditions, no cap on coverage, caps on premiums, having your child stay on your policy until he or she is 26 years old, initiatives for America's seniors.

NORRIS: So what she's trying to say is when you pull out certain portions of the bill, that favorability numbers go up. Is that correct?

ROVNER: That's absolutely true. And that's been true from the beginning. You ask people, as a whole, do you like or dislike this law? You get, as I said, about 50-50, or just a few more people say they don't like it. But when you take out those component parts, then favorability goes way, way up.

NORRIS: Democrats have been talking in sweeping ways about what might happen if the law actually were repealed.

Here's Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Representative DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ (Democrat, Florida): Plain and simple, repealing health-care reform would hurt millions of Americans.

NORRIS: Millions - is that correct?

ROVNER: Well, yes. But probably not as many millions as some of these statements would have you believe. Most of the benefits of the law have not taken effect yet, but some have. Just over a million young adults under age 26 have gotten back on their parents' health plans. So they'd lose that coverage if the law was repealed.

About 3 million seniors fall into what's known as the doughnut hole in Medicare drug coverage. They spend just enough that they don't get any more coverage. That's slowly being filled. So if this law was repealed, they would lose that financial help as well.

Now, there are a lot of other, smaller benefits that affect many more millions of people. But they're things that you wouldn't necessarily see right away, like no lifetime limits on insurance policies. So unless you were to actually hit that, you wouldn't know that you had it. So they're not as immediate, and you wouldn't necessarily see those.

NORRIS: Julie thanks, as always, for listening carefully for accuracy.

ROVNER: My pleasure.

NORRIS: That's NPR's health policy correspondent Julie Rovner.

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