Oh, please. Death panels again?

By Carol Gentry
06/27/12 © Health News Florida

Sarah Palin is reviving her assertion that the Affordable Care Act would set up "death panels" to decide who would get treatment and who would be allowed to die.  This would have entertainment value if so many people weren't taken in by it.

Some of those who believe the most outrageous of claims about the law should know better. This week, I got a letter from a benefits coordinator in Central Florida who said he hoped the Supreme Court would overturn the Affordable Care Act for a number of reasons, including:

1: The number of uninsured has been overstated.

2. Most who lack coverage are eligible for a government program but do not apply until they get sick.

3. A "major portion" of the uninsured are undocumented aliens and therefore are not entitled.

Wouldn't it be nice if he were right? Life is more comfortable in LaLa Land. But he's not. I took the trouble to look up the reports that would give him the facts, and sent him a note. I haven't heard back.

In case you know someone who is similarly misinformed, here are sources to set them straight:

1. The number of uninsured Americans, based on the 2010 census, was 49.1 million. (See this report from the Kaiser Family Foundation Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.)

The National Center for Health Statistics reported this month that 46.3 million Americans went without health insurance in 2011, and more than 34 million of them had already been uninsured for more than a year. 

2. I have seen nothing to suggest that most of the uninsured would qualify for a government program. While it's true that millions of the uninsured would qualify for Medicaid because of their incomes but have never applied, that doesn't represent the majority.

Currently, in order to qualify for Medicaid -- rules vary from state to state -- a person must not only be low-income but also fall into one of the eligibility categories, such as children or disabled adults. The Kaiser Factsheet says 40% of the uninsured are below the federal poverty level. Most adults don’t qualify for Medicaid because they aren’t in one of the eligibility categories.

3. According to the Kaiser report, 80% of the uninsured are U.S. citizens; the other 20% includes those with green cards, refugees and illegals. This PolitiFact review indicates that there are about 8 million illegals among the uninsured.

They account for about one-third of the 23 million who would remain without coverage after the health law fully takes effect, because the Affordable Care Act doesn’t cover illegals.

If the Supreme Court throws out the law, what will the conspiracy theorists focus on next? What will Palin do for attention?

--Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to journalism in the public interest. Editor Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.

 
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