Thanks for your trust

For some accurate information about the health care changes, click here.

Journalist Robert Scheer last week was wondering how Republicans intend to campaign against Democratic healthcare changes this year. Are they going to threaten to repeal a law that forces insurance companies to cover the sick?

The answer came the same day that Scheer wrote. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who called this insurance company-oriented program a nationalization of health care that would “pull the plug on Grandma,” put out a news release taking credit for it and touting its benefits.

“The bill requires that a hospital complete a community needs assessment once every three years and adopt and publicize a financial assistance policy; prohibits billing those who qualify for financial assistance [at] the top rates; and prohibits a hospital from taking extraordinary collection actions if the hospital has not made reasonable efforts to notify patients of its financial assistance policy,” Grassley bragged about the bill he voted against.

“The bill also requires the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of each hospital every three years; requires Treasury and Health and Human Services to submit an annual report to Congress on the level of charity care, bad debt expenses and the unreimbursed costs of means-tested and non-means-tested government programs; and requires Treasury and HHS to provide a report in five years on the trends on the items reported on an annual basis,” he went on.

“The Government Accountability Office and others, including the former IRS commissioner, have said for a long time that there is often no discernible difference between the operations of taxable and tax-exempt hospitals. … Congress, the IRS, and the public will now have additional tools and information to ensure that charitable hospitals act charitably,” Grassley finished.

His language may be as confusing as that in the law itself, but the message is clear—the new law is nowhere near as onerous or offensive as Republicans like Grassley have all along told us.

Throughout the healthcare debate, Republicans have exaggerated the bill’s shortcomings, and Democrats have soft-pedaled its faults. Unwilling to trust the public’s ability to grasp a complicated subject, their deceptions fed into the outright lies of activists outside Congress, arousing anger and apprehension in the public about provisions in the bill that did not actually exist or were distorted beyond recognition.

Now that the measure is actually law and the profile of the pack of liars is being reduced, we are beginning to learn some of the actual provisions in the law that should have been discussed and publicized by responsible legislators of both parties for the public’s benefit.

For instance, there’s the “doctor’s fix”—a lowering of Medicaid payments to physicians that was supposed to take effect on March 1 but was cancelled, apparently to aid passage of the main bill. It is needed because of a 1997 formula that has never worked as intended. Unless it is revived, the savings from the new law will evaporate.

Both political parties—and journalists—were at fault for the lack of good information on Democratic healthcare changes and for the flood of misinformation that resulted. They were all too responsive to the loudest protesters and too unwilling to trust people genuinely concerned about health care.