HHS Talking Points Give Incomplete, Distorted View of ObamaCare

By Matt Cover | May 2, 2012 | 6:31pm EDT

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

(CNSNews.com) - A Department of Health and Human Services-designed presentation on ObamaCare makes no mention of some of the law’s most controversial elements, including the individual mandate, tax penalties, and cuts to Medicare.

Published Wednesday on the website BuzzFeed, the Powerpoint presentation is presented as a simplified tool to educate the public on how the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will change American health care.

However, the educational document makes no mention at all of the contentious – and arguably unconstitutional – individual insurance mandate requiring that all Americans carry government-approved health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.

The presentation also ignores the mandate that all insurance companies provide free contraception – a requirement that some religious groups have said would violate their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion because they oppose contraception.

The HHS document contains some disputable and controversial claims.

An early section claims that insurance companies could “take advantage of you and discriminate against the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

Another passage misleadingly links insurance premiums to insurance company profits, implying that insurers were raising premiums to increase profits: “[P]remiums were skyrocketing even as insurers made record profits.”

However, the increase in insurance premiums is strongly tied to the ever-increasing costs of health care. In fact, the presentation later acknowledges that insurance companies dedicated at least 60 percent of premium revenue to paying health care claims.

The theme that insurance companies could “take advantage” of consumers runs through the presentation. One passage even states that insurance companies were taking advantage of people who were not even their customers.

“In the past, insurance companies could take advantage of you. They could deny coverage to children who had asthma or were born with a heart defect,” it says – without explaining how an insurer could “take advantage” of people it did not cover in the first place.

The presentation also paints a misleading picture of how other reforms work, obscuring how the government is granted new and unprecedented power over the health care market.

One slide states that “insurance companies must publicly justify their actions if they want to raise premiums by 10 percent or more” – a passage that ignores the government’s new role in the market. This part of ObamaCare gives the government the power to decide whether an insurance company will be allowed to raise its rates or not. If insurers want to raise their rates by 10 percent or more, they must justify their actions to the government.

The presentation also makes little mention of the rich insurance subsidies in ObamaCare, saying only that “tax credits will make buying insurance more affordable.” No mention is made of the tens of billions of dollars these subsidies are expected to cost taxpayers or the likelihood that their costs could easily balloon over time.

The document refers to health insurance exchanges, saying they will operate like the popular travel-service websites Orbitz or Expedia. Yet, no mention is made of the fact that the government will dictate what types of health insurance are offered in the exchanges and force everyone – including employers – to have an exchange-approved health plan.

The presentation claims that “the law strengthens Medicare,” pointing out that it offers seniors free cancer screenings and heavily discounted brand-name drugs. No mention is made of the fact that ObamaCare cut $500 billion from Medicare’s most popular program, Medicare Advantage.

(The text of the HHS presentation can be viewed here, and a copy with poor-quality graphics here.)

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