Fact check: The true, false & overblown on Obamacare

A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Falsehoods about the Affordable Care Act are still swirling — and the intensity of the claims is rising as the health insurance exchanges are set to launch.

We've been batting down bogus claims about the Affordable Care Act for years, since 2009, when legislation was still in the debate stage. But they've been increasing in intensity in recent months as we approach Oct. 1, the date the insurance exchanges will be open for business for those buying their own insurance, mainly with the help of federal subsidies.

The law is long, complicated and still being implemented. Many of the claims we've seen — and expect to see for some time to come — center on the impact on employers (or employees), premium rates and medical decisions.


Claim: 8.2 million Americans can't find full-time work partly due to Obamacare.

FactCheck.org says: False.

This assertion from the Republican National Committee echoes others conservative claims that the law is hindering part-timers from finding full-time jobs. But the RNC's 8.2 million figure was the total number in June of part-time workers in the U.S. seeking full-time work — what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls "part-time for economic reasons" — and there's no evidence from BLS numbers that the law has had an impact on such workers. There were more in this "part-time for economic reasons" category in March 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law (9.1 million). The latest figure, from August, is 7.9 million.

Claim: The law is a job-killer.

FactCheck.org says: Overblown.

It's true nonpartisan economic analyses have estimated a "small" loss of mainly low-wage jobs because of the law. But as one expert told us, there hasn't been much analysis of this impact of the law because, he believes, economists think the impact will be minimal. Still, Republicans have continued to push the idea that the law will have a significant effect on jobs.


Claim: Premiums are going up because of the law. Premiums are going down because of the law.

FactCheck.org says: It depends.

Our short answer — "it depends" — may be unsatisfactory to readers, but whether you'll pay more or less than you would have without the law depends on your circumstances. Are you uninsured and have a preexisting condition? You'll likely pay less than you would have otherwise. Are you uninsured but young and healthy? You'll likely pay more (without accounting for any subsidies you may receive). Are you insured through your employer? You likely won't see much change either way.

Claim: All of the uninsured will pay less on the exchanges than they could now on the individual market, even without federal subsidies.

FactCheck.org says: False.

President Obama made this claim at an Aug. 9 press conference, saying that beginning Oct. 1, the 15 percent of the population that's uninsured would be able to "sign up for affordable quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market." But even Obama's secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, has acknowledged that young persons would likely pay more and older Americans would likely pay less on the insurance exchanges. As we explained, the reason is that the ACA changes how insurance companies can price these policies on the individual market — it forbids insurance companies from charging more for persons with preexisting conditions or based on gender, and limits them to charging older policyholders no more than three times what they charge to younger policyholders.

Claim: 8.5 million Americans will receive rebates this year averaging about $100 each because of the health care law.

FactCheck.org says: Misleading.

President Obama has stretched the facts in making this boast about the law's impact. The rebates are real, but most of them will go to companies offering insurance to their workers. Only those who buy their own insurance will get a rebate check directly. And the $100 is an average per family, not per person. 

Medical Care

Claim: You won't be able to choose your own doctor.
Claim: The government will be between you and your doctor.

FactCheck.org says: False.

These claims are variations on the fear that the government will be taking over health care — choosing your doctor, telling him or her what treatment to administer, etc. But the law doesn't create a government-run system, as we've said many times. It actually greatly expands business for private insurance, by about 12 million new customers, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. And individuals will choose their own doctors, just as they do now.

Claim: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.

FactCheck.org: Misleading.

Obama has repeatedly made this claim, and the White House continuesto use the lineon its website. The law doesn't force Americans to pick new plans or new doctors, but the president simply can't make this promise to everyone. There's no guarantee that your employer won't switch plans, just as companies could have done before the law. And if you switch jobs, your new work-based coverage might not have your doctor as an in-network provider, either.

And There's More …

Claim: Those applying for federal subsidies can lie about their income without facing verification.

FactCheck.org says: False.

The Obama administration gave the insurance exchanges some leeway in how they verify income eligibility for federal subsidies in the first year. That prompted Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt to claim that the administration had "waived the income verification requirement" and that applicants can "say what you think your income's going to be with no way to verify that." Not true. The exchanges will compare applications with federal information — such as previous tax returns — and ask for additional information if the person has no previous tax filings.

Claim: Congress is exempt from the law.

FactCheck.org says: False.

Several versions of this claim have been circulating since before the Affordable Care Act was passed. But no matter how many different ways the critics spin it, Congress isn't exempt from the law. In fact, members and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don't. Beginning in 2014, they can no longer get insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, as they and other federal employees have done. Instead, they are required to get insurance through the insurance exchanges.


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