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Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger

Representing the 2nd District of Maryland

Mythbusters: Healthcare Reform Edition

Busted: Members of Congress are exempt from the healthcare reform bill.

Constituents occasionally contact the office after hearing claims that Members of Congress and their staff are exempt from the healthcare reform law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Here are the facts:

  • Members of Congress are not exempt from any of the provisions within the healthcare reform law. In fact, the bill contains a specific provision requiring Members of Congress and their staff to purchase healthcare insurance only from the exchanges created by it. This means that Members of their staff are the only individuals under the law who are explicitly removed from their current healthcare plan and required to seek coverage in the exchange.
  • All other Americans who receive employer-provided healthcare may continue to receive their existing coverage under the reform law. 
  • Members of Congress and their staff are ineligible for the premium tax credits (also known as subsidies) offered to individuals in the exchange regardless of income level.

Busted: The health care law is a tax increase on the middle class.

You can find background on this myth here. Here are the facts:

  •  Under the healthcare reform law, Americans who can afford to purchase insurance but refuse to do so will pay a penalty. According to the Washington Post Fact Check, about 4 million people – or 1.2 percent of the population – will pay this penalty to the IRS in 2016.
  • Many more Americans and American businesses will receive tax credits to help them afford health insurance for themselves and their employees. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the government will provide $630 billion in tax credits and subsidies for insurance within the next 11 years, compared to just $54 billion in penalties for uninsured individuals over the same period. 

Busted: The health care law will increase the cost of healthcare and the federal deficit.

 You can find background on this myth here. Here are the facts:

  •  According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, national health spending grew only 3.9 percent after the reform law was passed – the lowest growth rate in all but one of the last 50 years.
  • Average premiums for Medicare Advantage enrollees are 16 percent lower in 2012 than they were before the reform law was enacted. Average premiums for Medicare Part D saw no increase in 2012 from the 2011 level. Medicare Part B premiums are also lower than projected.
  • Premium increases for private insurance plans have also slowed. According to this Mercer survey of employers, premiums saw the smallest increase measured since 1997.
  • The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the health care law will reduce the national deficit by $124 billion over the next decade and over $1 trillion the following decade.

Busted: The health care law is killing jobs and hurting small business.

Here are the facts:

  • Of the 4.2 million private sector jobs created since the health care law was enacted, 632,000 of them have been in the health care industry, according to federal labor statistics.
  • The law requiring some businesses to provide health insurance benefits to employees exempts small businesses, or those with fewer than 50 employees. That makes up 96 percent of America’s businesses.
  • For small businesses that would like to offer employees insurance benefits, the healthcare law provides tax credits to help them afford it.

Busted: The health care law is “a government takeover."

You can find background on this myth here, here and here. Here are the facts:

  • The reform bill that was signed into law did not include the so-called “public option,” which was a proposed government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurance companies.
  • Under the new law, employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.
  • The law sets up “Health Insurance Exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don’t have it.  Tax credits will be provided to people who can’t afford insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private insurers on these exchanges.
  • According to the latest estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the law will expand enrollment in private insurance coverage by an estimated 15 million by 2017.
  • The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.

Busted: The health care law is bad for seniors and cuts Medicare.

Here are the facts:

  • The law (section 3601) says that guaranteed Medicare benefits can’t be reduced.
  • The law achieves savings in Medicare by cutting waste, fraud and abuse while cracking down on overpayments to insurance companies. Much of these savings will be reinvested back into Medicare.
  • Under the new law, seniors receive free preventive care, like cancer screenings, and reduced prescription drug costs. Already, seniors have saved an average of $600 per year since the law passed.