Understanding the House Health Care Bill

Don’t jump to conclusions about HR 3200

Don't believe everything you read.

Don't believe everything you read.

There’s a lot of “news” floating around out there about House Resolution 3200. Unfortunately some of the discourse has devolved into scare tactics, misinterpretation and, in some cases, flat-out lies. Much like opponents of the people’s right to get a loan until payday call payday lenders “predatory,” opponents of the current administration are trying to twist language in the bill into meaning something it doesn’t.

It would be impossible, in one work day, for me to tackle all of the misinformation out there. Instead, I’ve picked three general misconceptions about HR 3200 to focus on.

1. The government is encouraging people to die

I chose to tackle this ridiculous claim first because it is the most offensive and the most inaccurate. In fact, the opposite is true. The bill makes sure that patients considered terminal receive proper consultation on things like creating, updating and finishing their will.

It also says that people should know their options. They will be informed about long-term care options such as hospice, nursing homes, etc. Page 429 also says that an order can be issued on the patients behalf that does the following:

“Effectively communicates the individual’s preferences regarding life sustaining treatment, including an indication of the treatment and care desired by the individual.”

I have actually encountered people who think (or say for political reasons) that this bill will allow the government “to issue an order to end a life.” The purpose of this part of the bill is to ensure that doctors don’t pull the plug unless that is specifically requested by the patient. To quote a memo by Ben Lenet, Deputy District Administrator for United States Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.:

This ensures that patients and families are given ALL the information about ALL of their options and makes sure that in all circumstances, the patient’s wishes are observed.  (This prevents Bill Frist from making medical determinations off of VHS tapes from his Senate office).

2. Government can access personal information

Rumor has it that HR 3200 gives the government access to health records, bank account information and other personal records. It is true, if HR 3200 passes, the government will have access to these things. To put it another way, these things will stay exactly the same.

The government already is allowed access to your health records and bank account information. They were granted it by a little document called the PATRIOT Act. So stop panicking. Or start panicking, but know that the government has had access to all of this information and more since 2001.

3. The government will decide what services you can get

This is sort of, a little bit true. Just as current, private insurance providers specify what treatments  your insurance plan covers, the government-run public insurance plan will have specifications on what it will cover. However, the government will not decide what makes the cut.

To quote, again, from Lenet’s memo:

This plan will establish a panel of DOCTORS who will evaluate the best practices for care.  This will eliminate physicians ordering unnecessary tests and procedures solely for the purpose of a larger reimbursement.

Also, just like private insurers, the government will have a tiered program that will allow people to choose levels of coverage or to add additional services and treatments to their health insurance plans.

You can read the complete text of HR 3200 online, thanks to The Library of Congress. Know that there are poeple out there truncating and quoting portions of the bill making the meaning sound totally different than the truth. So before you believe everything you’re told about HR 3200, check it out for yourself.