More Medicare and ACA Lies Exposed

Sep 7th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Social Security & Medicare

The new Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to be in the forefront of conversation for many senior citizens. Since Medicare and health issues are a primary concern for most of us, we tend to read as much information as we can about the ACA. 

Thanks to the Internet, we have information available that helps us understand what the ACA does and does not provide. Unfortunately, we also have statements being made and circulated on the Internet about the health law that are well outside the realm of reality. In fact, some of what is being circulated falls into the category of fear-mongering.

Some of what is being said has some basis in truth, and then truth disappears and all kinds of strange machinations happen to the information.  Here are some examples from a recent NPR story: 

1.      The law requires people who want public health insurance (like Medicare) to be implanted with a microchip.

The origin of this distortion was originally in the House-passed health bill, but it was ultimately dropped.  The original version called for the FDA to create a registry of medical devices that could be implanted in people so when they had medical emergencies, some of their medical information could be immediately available.  The distortion took on a life of its own, and people quickly moved from fact to creating fiction about microchip requirements.  Obviously the device registry never made it into the final bill..

2.      The law creates a new “private army” for President Obama.

In 2008, President-Elect Obama made a speech at the Democratic National Convention, calling for a civilian national security force that equals the military.  He was referring to programs like Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.  When the ACA created a ‘ready reserve’ within the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, those looking for the President’s private army decided they had found it.  However, the Public Health Service is a uniformed branch of service—and it’s public.  Its head is the US Surgeon General, who has four-star admiral rank.  The law does authorize a reserve corps that can be called up in time of national emergency for hurricane response or H1N1 flu epidemic out of control.

3.       The law requires hiring 16,500 new, armed Internal Revenue Service Agents.

The fact is that the IRS will be involved in implementing ACA, as a watchdog for accurate reporting.  Each one of us has to report on our 1040s whether or not we have insurance to comply with ACA requirements, beginning in 2014; there will also be tax credits and deductions available to help us afford health insurance.  The IRS likely will be adding staff to carry out some of the new requirements.  But when SCJ checked with PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org, they indicated that 16,500 is a highly exaggerated figure—fiction again.  There are no criminal penalties for failing to get health insurance. IRS agents who are armed deal with drug cartels and criminals, not people who fail to get health insurance.

4.      The ACA requires us to pay taxes on our health insurance beginning 2011.

Absolutely not true.  Beginning in 2011, employers that provide health insurance are required to include on employees’ W-2 forms the amount they contributed to the employee’s health insurance premiums for that year.  Premiums are still exempt from income tax.   It’s included for information purposes only.

5.      The ACA dictates what you can and cannot eat. 

Absolutely not true.  The ACA requires chain restaurants to make nutritional information, particularly calorie count, on most of its regular menu.  Chains and fast food restaurants are notorious for serving food with outrageous calorie counts.  Obesity is an ever-increasing problem in this country, and this is an attempt to educate and inform people about how many calories they ingest when they order off a fast food menu.

6.      Hospitals have to fire obese employees.

Absolutely not true.  The NPR story has this to say about the distortion: 

“This was a painful lesson for one hospital administrator, who failed to follow the rule of “confirm rumors before acting on them.”

The interim president and CEO of the Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital sent a letter to the homes of some 1,800 employees informing them that “we have recently intercepted a rumor/advance intelligence that the Commissioners of the Healthcare Reform Bill are seriously considering the following proposal: ‘Hospitals will be denied Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, in whole or in part, if more than five percent of hospital employees are 25 percent heavier than the generally accepted height and weight guidelines.’”

One tipoff should have been that there are no “Commissioners of the Healthcare Reform Bill.” The law is being implemented largely by the secretary of health and human services and the people who work for her, including the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. The law does create an Independent Payment Advisory Board to make recommendations about how Medicare can save money, but it says nothing about withholding payment based on any characteristics of hospital personnel.

CMS Spokesman Peter Ashkenaz told a local television station that “Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are based on hospitals and treating patients” and that the agency does not oversee health care employees.

The hospital administrator retracted what he called “misinformation” three days after the letters were sent.” 

SCJ remains committed to reporting TRUTH about Medicare and Social Security, and the ACA’s effects on seniors and our health concerns.  Sharing truth helps address the distortions and lies running around on the Internet.



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