With Congress heading home, expect the spin machine to rev up higher on health care reform

With Congress heading home, expect the spin machine to rev up higher on health care reform
CORBIS/Mark Karrass

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress is heading home for its August recess, which means that the raging debate over health care reform is coming soon to a town near you.

In fact, it may already be there. But, things are likely to get much more heated over the next month because congressional lawmakers, and the president, see this as the make-or-break moment for health care reform. In short, it is their last chance this year to get you the voter on — or off — board.

For rank-and-file Democrats, this means building momentum for legislation that is currently pending in both the House and Senate. It will mean an unrelenting schedule of town hall meetings and oversimplified sound bites that go something like this: Reform cannot wait, our bill will lower costs while improving quality of care, and it will even save your family hundreds of dollars a year.

Sign me up!

For rank-and-file Republicans, however, August will be the month to stall the Democrats’ agenda by raising concerns about the impact of proposed changes. In their own slew of community events, Republicans will offer a set of ready-made one-liners, but they will sound something like this: We need reform, but it needs to be done right, the Democrats’ plan will amount to a government takeover of health care and tax hikes that will cripple small businesses, and you might even lose your job if this thing passes.


How to handle that dizzy spin-machine feeling
If the spin is already making you dizzy, you are definitely not alone. (Not disoriented yet? Check out a more comprehensive list of Democratic and Republican talking points here).

The problem is that the logistics and possible ramifications of health care reform are not only complex but also changing as the multiple bills in Congress are tweaked and rewritten. So, what is true today may not be true tomorrow. And, perhaps what was wrong yesterday could now be true.

Even in this windstorm of whirling facts, however, it’s important to hold our elected officials accountable for the statements that they make at the time they make them.

The fact-checking website PolitiFact.com currently does this by investigating statements and assertions made by politicians, pundits and other spinners of information. (The site bills itself as “a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in American politics.”)

Recently, the site has followed up on a number of claims about health care reform, which may sound familiar to you.

Here is a sampling (with links to PolitiFact’s reasoning and rating system):

• “All non-US citizens, illegal or not, will be provided with free healthcare services.” 
Pants on Fire (completely wrong)

• “All private healthcare plans must conform to government rules to participate in a Health Care Exchange.”   

• “In the health care bill, “The ‘Health Choices Commissioner’ will decide health benefits for you. You will have no choice. None.”   
Pants on Fire (completely wrong)

• “The health care reform bill “would make it mandatory — absolutely require — that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.”   
Pants on Fire (completely wrong)

• Health insurance companies are “making record profits, right now.”   

• Even high estimates for an early draft of the health care plan are “less than the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts.”       
Mostly True

• Under a public health care option, 120 million Americans will “lose what they now get from private companies and be forced onto the government-run rolls as businesses decide it is more cost-effective for them to drop coverage.”
False (Oversimplifying a more complex scenario)

Over the next month, MinnPost will be taking a similar approach to statements that Minnesota politicians make about health care reform. We will be reviewing claims made in speeches, press releases, and Op-Ed articles, but would also like to hear from MinnPost readers. So, if you see or hear anything that you want checked out, please send it to cdizikes@minnpost.com in the following format:


Name of the politician, pundit, or political party making the claim:

Date of the claim:

Place claim was made (for example, speech, commercial, radio address, chain email)

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/04/2009 - 10:32 am.

    I’m surprised there was no mention of how town hall meetings have been going for our local reps.

    Here’s Keith Ellison getting an earful of “not no, hell no”.


    Notice that Rep. Ellison won’t answer a single question put to him.

    Note also, the woman who suggests that the UN has guaranteed Americans health care rights….yow!

    I can’t wait for Betty! McCollum to schedule a town hall meeting so my neighbors and I can have a heart to heart with her.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/04/2009 - 11:02 am.

    Swiftee, I can see it now. It will be like your “in your face” (interface) with Franken @ the state fair.

    Then you can post it over @ paradise, aka “pair`o dice”. Should be good theater for your fan base.

  3. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 08/04/2009 - 11:11 am.

    I can’t wait to see the YouTubes from the Town Hall Meetings that Kline, Paulsen, and Bachmann hold.

    Oh, wait – Kline, Paulsen and Bachmann don’t hold Town Hall Meetings.

    Imagine that.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/04/2009 - 11:40 am.

    I disagree with just about everything Rep. McCollum believes, Richard.

    But, since I have no information that she ever financially benefited from the swindle of a children’s charity, I do not find her personally repugnant and feel no need to get up in her face.

    I’m expecting the usual civil experience in which McCollum sits sanguinely and allows discordant opinions to flow in one ear and out through the other.

    I have been unrepresented in congress for years, and don’t expect that to change. The goal is to ensure that “YouTube”, and “Pair O’ Dice” makes it unfeasable for Rep. McCollum to claim that her constituents are all in favor of any particular Democrat scheme.

    Do keep tuned to POD for updates, though…thanks for reading!

  5. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/04/2009 - 03:20 pm.

    This is all truly sad. Krugman predicts (with caution i.e. non-scientific but gut) that a decent politically palatable bill has a 75% chance of passing. And that one with a public option has about a 25% chance of passing. This is coming from a fifty something household with a “free agent” (working 75 hours part time but satisfying jobs for small employers and healthcare paid out of personal savings). If you had a child with a condition that required testing every 2.5 years what can one do? Move to Canada? Do people know that you can be denied insurance for having a precondition to a predisposed condition? There are not enough 25 year olds in the states to do all the work that needs to be done. Where is the liberty in that! Have a nice day :>

  6. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/04/2009 - 04:28 pm.

    And even more seriously as this is not a game. Doesn’t it all really come down to the U.S. Senate? Both Minnesota senators will vote for a “liberal” bill or a moderate one. Also even more importantly the Senate and the administration has the option of reconciliation rules which does not even need a filibuster proof senate just 51 votes for a moderate bill. Soooo will Obama’s administration ultimately go for a plan for with a public option or for a more conservative bill in order to take deserved credit for political victory? I think the really really interesting story(s) will come down to Conrad in North Dakota and Herseth in South Dakota. Really go where the real story is enjoy the fast trip to the border. Ride a rental north along the South Dakota Ridgeline up to the Red River. Read the Argus Leader, the Pierre paper, the Aberdeen American News. Then hop on the ol Red and float north reading the Fargo and the capital and Grand Forks papers. heck shoot a pheasant if you want.
    And then scoot on down the crow wing river and get a pulse for NW N central Minnesota and Colin Peterson. but remember the real battle is in the senate and two dakota senators are very important.

  7. Submitted by Jerry Mayeux on 08/04/2009 - 05:25 pm.

    Consider the Connection to:
    A Plug for Health Care Reform 09
    Google and Web Search:
    Health Care Profiteers & Lobbyists

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/04/2009 - 05:40 pm.


    Why not hold officials to the campaign promises that are made during the campaign? It seems to me you have forgotten the campaign promises of Amy K. (Lowering the debt, deficit, pay-go)

    I will anxiously await your evaluation of Senator Amy K. and her promises when you get out of campaign mode.


  9. Submitted by sangryul han on 08/05/2009 - 12:02 am.

    The ‘innovative’ idea of a ‘pay for value / outcome’ pack came after the CBO had previously pointed out this health care reform wouldn’t work without ‘fundamental’ change in the out of date system. It is said that as much as 30 percent of all health-care spending in the U.S. -some $700 billion a year- may be wasted on tests and treatments that do not improve the health of the recipients, and this 700 billion dollars a year can cover a lot of uninsured people.

    The expected Benefits of this ‘innovative idea’ are as follows ;

    1. Meet the objective of revenue-neutral.
    Supporters of the agreement say it could save the Medicare System more than $100 billion a year and ‘improve’
    care, that means more than $1trillian over next decade, and virtually needs no other resources including tax on the
    wealthiest. Supposedly even the ‘conservative’ number of such savings might be able to meet the objective of

    2. Quality and affordability.
    If you are a physician, and your pay is dependant upon your patient’s outcome, you will most likely strive to
    prescribe the best medicine earlier in the process, let alone skipping the wasteful, unnecessary treatments.

    3. No intervention in decision-making.
    The innovative idea of ‘a pay for outcome’ will more likely prompt team approach and decision, as at Myo clinic.
    Under the ‘pay for outcome’ pack, for good reason, best practices as ‘recommendations’ would simply help them
    make a better decision, and the government won’t still have to meddle in the final, actual decision-making
    process as a non-expert.

    4. Speed up the introduction of IT SYSTEM.
    The pay for ‘Outcome’ pack is most likely to expedite the introduction of Health Care IT SYSTEM.
    The synergy effect of the combined Health Care IT & a pay for ‘outcome’ system may allow the clinicians to
    ‘correctly’ diagnose and effectively treat a patient earlier in the process so that it can measurably scale back the
    crushing lawsuits and deter the excuse for unnecessary cares to make fortunes.

    5. Accelerate the progress in medical science, in return, it saves more money.

    6. Settle the regional disparity.

    7. Reduce the emergency room visits & save immense costs.
    Public health insurance plans such as Medicare and Medicaid paid for more than 40 percent of U.S. emergency
    room visits in 2006, according to government figures released recently. Many experts say reducing these hospital
    visits would be an important way to lower the enormous, and growing, expense of U.S. health care.

    Thank You !

  10. Submitted by sangryul han on 08/05/2009 - 03:37 am.

    -Some say we don’t have faith in government, others say, we will be forced out.-
    What kind of music does this reform dance to ?

    I share the opinion that unlike the insurer-friendly, baseless senate plan by ‘some’ members, only a ‘strong’ public option will be capable of getting the premium inflation under control and saving the U.S in turbulence.
    To my knowledge, a dual system tends to deliver better results than a pure single payer system. Supposedly, to be or not to be might be up to the innovations like a pay for value program, otherwise, the forthcoming start-ups may fill the void with competitive deals. The competition based on ‘fair’ market value would be a beauty of true capitalism, not monopoly, an objective for anti-trust.

  11. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 08/06/2009 - 07:13 am.


    Please monitor these comments carefully; Any anti Obamacare comments should be forwarded to “flag@whitehouse.gov” where a centralized database will be accumulated to refute all “wrong thinking”.

    Oops! Senator Clare McCaskill has refuted the DNC “Mob” memo, and said on her website that all of the protesters are concerned citizens who should be heard. Especially all those senior citizens who have attended these meetings who are concerned about the $500 billion in cuts projected for Medicare … oops, I mean “savings”.

    The Green House is following the Saul Alinsky “Rules for Radicals”: Identify, isolate, and ridicule. Hey, it worked in Chicago.

    Pelosi is so freaked out she blurted out that the “astroturf” protesters are bringing swastikas to the meetings.

    How come Michelle Bachmann is the only Congress Person who is scheduling a town meeting in Minnesota. I guess all the “nuts” in Colin Peterson’s district will be there.

    Why can’t the liberals organize 100 people anywhere in the country to support Obamacare? Because Rahm Emanuel threw the single payers under the bus a long time ago.

    IN November, 2009, Virginia and New Jersey, which both voted for Obama, will CRUSH the Democratic Party.

  12. Submitted by William Pappas on 08/08/2009 - 10:48 am.

    Let’s face the facts, Cynthia. Democrats are for the most part trying to factually portray these various government options for their constituents while republicans are incapable of speaking about this issue without resorting to hyperbole, mis-statement, lies and spin. It arises from the plain truth that “For Profit Insurance” cannot succeed if it doesn’t exclude sick people and insure healthy ones in some proportion. Another sad fact is that the government option will always be used by the uninsurable, the poor and the unemployed. It will be more expensive to maintain as the payouts will obviously be larger.

    OH, and let me say that there is zero chance that New Jersey will trend republican. Also the fact that Virginia went democratic was in large part due to the recognition by the entire government work force in and around Washington, both democrat and republican alike, that the complete failure of the Bush Administration to manage government and the incompetance they advanced was insidious and pervasive in the entire repubican party. You’ll need to look elsewhere for an upcoming republican crush.

Leave a Reply