Long before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed into law, opponents of the bill began spreading rumors about how it would devastate the health care system as we know it. Many parts of the law have been enacted over the past three years. Next year, the final reforms will go into effect, expanding affordable individual health insurance through a series of state- or federally-based marketplaces and Medicaid expansion.
Here's a look at some of the most common rumors about the Affordable Care Act, and why they're simply not true.
6 Obamacare myths debunked
Myth 1: Obamacare will lead to higher health insurance premiums.
Many conservative news outlets, and even health insurance companies themselves, have claimed that the Affordable Care Act's regulations will lead to extreme price hikes: For instance, Aetna's CEO, Mark Bartolini, stated that the reform would lead to an average 32 percent price increase for the company’s health insurance policies.
However, the official price estimates from state regulators tell a different story: In New York state, regulators have approved rates that are an average of 50 percent lower than those currently available in the state, with some rates falling even more dramatically.
According to data released by the New York State Department of Financial Services, an individual would currently pay an average of $1,534 per month for an HMO from the New-York based health insurance company Empire; under the new law, that rate would drop to $552 for a gold-level plan (which has a relatively high premium, but lower deductibles compared to silver- and bronze-level plans.
Although some young and healthy policyholders may see increases under the new law, the majority of these policyholders will have access to income-based subsidies to reduce the cost of their plans. Subsidies will be available for families whose household income is between $47,100 and $94,200.
Myth 2: Obamacare will cut services to Medicare beneficiaries.
Last year, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney claimed in a 60 Minutes interview that Obama “robbed Medicare” of $716 billion to pay for the new health reform. In fact, the Affordable Care Act lowers the spending forecast of Medicare by $716 billion by regulating the costs paid to health care providers, rather than robbing Medicare beneficiaries of needed services.
In April 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that rather than cutting Medicare reimbursement (the contracted rate that Medicare pays to health service providers), it will increase per-person reimbursement rates by 3 percent.
Myth 3: Taxpayer money will be used to fund abortions.
Many anti-abortion groups were outraged by New Jersey Republican House Representative Chris Smith’s statement in April 2012 that the Affordable Care Act contains an "abortion surcharge and a secrecy clause" that forces "pro-life Americans ... to pay for other people's abortions." In fact, the law mandates that no federal dollars may be used to pay for abortion services.
All Americans will have the option to purchase a plan on the exchanges that doesn’t cover abortion and those who wish to include such coverage in their plans will be subject to a surcharge of at least $1 per month. This surcharge will be kept separate from the federal health exchange budget.
Myth 4: Obamacare’s “death panels” will deny life-saving treatments to senior citizens.
One of the most frightening rumors about the new healthcare legislation refers to “death panels,” which will supposedly make life-or-death decisions regarding whether senior citizens will gain access to medical treatments to keep them alive. A viral chain email stated that seniors over age 76 will be denied cancer treatment, but no evidence has been found to substantiate those claims. Instead, the new reform will expand Medicare services, and include many preventive care options at no extra charge.
Myth 5: Obamacare will hurt businesses by requiring them to pay huge fees to insure their workers.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses and various conservative political groups and lawmakers have rallied against the Affordable Care Act on the basis that they believe it will hurt small businesses by forcing them to pay high health insurance premiums for their workers. In fact, the majority of small businesses will be unaffected by Obamacare: Only businesses with 50 full-time employees or more who don’t already provide health coverage to full-time employees will be subject to the requirement to purchase insurance or face fines.
Employers with less than 50 full-time employees aren’t required to offer coverage. If they choose to do so, they will be eligible for tax credits worth up to 50 percent of premium costs through the Small Business Health Insurance Program (SHOP), which offers affordable small group health plans for employees.
Myth 6: Obamacare will require all U.S. citizens to be implanted with microchips to track their every move.
One of the most persistent rumors about the Affordable Care Act is a chain email claiming that the law requires the creation of a national medical device registry—and then claiming that this requirement means that a microchip “would be implanted in the majority of people who opt to become covered by the public health care option… Eventually everyone will be implanted with a chip.”
Although the “national medical device registry” exists, it’s simply a registry that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to track information about patients who use implanted devices such as pacemakers, so that they can track the devices’ effectiveness and alert them to any recall notices.