One of Republican Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's favorite stump lines is that this election is a “battle for America's soul.” There is a lot of truth in that statement. Unfortunately for Americans, there seems to be little truth in anything else Romney has to say. While we have cynically come to expect a certain amount of spin and bending of the truth from our politicians, Romney mangles it with a voraciousness heretofore unseen.
Not that Democrats are immune from such shenanigans, but this disregard for the truth seems to be particularly epidemic in Republican politics this election season especially in regard to our President and his policies. It's one thing to disagree with President Obama's approach to healthcare reform, it's quite another to deliberately lie to your constituents about how the Affordable Care Act will affect their lives in order to turn public opinion against it. You may think that the Recovery Act was bad public policy but to say it was a complete failure and created no jobs is simply not true.
Many liberals, myself included, believe there were deficiencies in both of those bills but we also recognize their positive elements and overall benefit. Most of us realize that good policy comes from compromise and even though “Obamacare” is chock full of Republican ideas we've accepted that some of them actually make a lot of sense. Take the individual mandate for example. This idea originated out of the revered Heritage Foundation and was first proposed in failed Republican sponsored health care reform legislation in the 90s.
So it shouldn't surprise me that my very own U. S. Representative, Rob Woodall, is giving Romney a run for his money in the untruthiness (sic) department. On Wednesday of this week Woodall posted a video clip on his official Facebook page with the following notation; “According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, if the President’s health care law remains on the books, 62 percent of family doctors will stop accepting Medicare patients. At 45 minutes, my Floor Speech on the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) provision found in the President’ health care law is a little long, but if you have any questions at all about the IPAB provision, or want to hear an argument that goes well beyond the typical 'death panel' one, then watching this video will be well worth your time.”
To be blunt, Woodall's statement regarding the American Academy of Family Physicians is a rather bold lie. Woodall is actually referring to a statement the AAFP issued last summer during the debt ceiling debate concerning the “doc fix” which was being held hostage by Republican members of Congress along with the necessary debt ceiling increase. If you're not familiar with the “doc fix,” Wikipedia has an explanation of it under the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate topic. According to the AAFP statement regarding the debt ceiling proposal:
“The American Academy of Family Physicians appreciates the proposal’s preservation of Medicaid funding and Medicare benefits, but it still poses a grave threat to Medicare patients’ ability to get appointments with their physicians. How? By not addressing the deeply flawed formula on which all Medicare payment is based — the sustainable growth rate formula that under current law requires a 30 percent Medicare cut for physician care on Jan. 1, 2012.
“Data from a 2010 AAFP survey show that a 25 percent Medicare pay cut — five percent less than what is required on Jan. 1, 2012 — would drive 13 percent of family physicians out of business. The loss of these practices goes far beyond the serious access problems for patients, particularly in rural and under served areas that already struggle to find needed medical care. Family physicians generate an average of $1.3 billion in economic activity in their states. The closing of these practices would result in significant loss of revenue and jobs in communities across the country.
“Moreover, according to the 2010 survey, more than seven in 10 family physicians would be forced to limit the number of Medicare patients they can accept and nearly 62 percent will be forced to stop accepting new Medicare patients.”
The required pay cut in question has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act and indeed the act is not even mentioned. The Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate was enacted 1997 and has been a source of AAFP blackmail ever since. Hence the yearly “doc fix” spectacle. Moreover, Woodall claims that 62 percent of family doctors will stop accepting Medicare patients whereas the AAFP statement clearly states “new” Medicare patients. There is a huge distinction between the two. This was a problem long before Obamacare, in fact Obamacare includes the Primary Care Incentive Payment Program (PCIPP) which provides bonuses to family doctors to encourage them to grow their practices.
The insidiousness of this lie isn't just that Woodall is taking the AAFP's statement out of context and applying it falsely to Obamacare, it's that Obamacare actually attempts to address the family physician problem through the PCIPP bonuses.
My Granny always taught me one lie leads to another and Woodall's video is an even bigger whopper. In fact at 45 minutes it may be the longest lie ever told. Honestly, I couldn't bear watching much more than the first 15 minutes or so. The BS was so deep I was starting to hyperventilate. From what I gather the entire clip consists of Woodall trying to scare folks into believing that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will ration care. He even invokes visions of Sarah Palin's imaginary “death panels.”
Early on in his video Woodall encourages you not to actually read the health care bill as there are "lots of good summaries out there." There is good reason for this. If you read the bill, on page 409 under section 3403 which Woodall is citing, under the heading "Proposals" the law describes the requirements for any proposal the IPAB submits. It clearly states "The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums under section 1818, 1818A, or 1839, increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria." Page 428 of the PDF for those playing along at home.
Just as it seems evident to all that Romney will say whatever it takes to get elected, it appears there is no tale too big for Woodall to tell to shill for the buzzards that feather his roost. It is impossible to form good public policy when one side has abandoned the truth and we have never needed clear thinking more than now. The truth is, health care reform is crucial to our competitiveness in global markets. The market-based solution that comprises the Affordable Care Act is a far cry from the single payer “Medicare for all” system that progressives would prefer, in fact it is identical in many aspects to past Republican proposals. It is the epitome of compromise and although it won't be in full effect until 2014 millions have already begun reaping it's benefits. It's time we stopped trying to dismantle it, work to improve it, and get on to other important issues.
The battle for America's soul isn't a battle of Republican vs. Democrat or even liberal vs. conservative, it's a battle of truth vs. propaganda. Due to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling there will be an unprecedented amount of money spent manipulating the truth during this election. Some of our wealthiest individuals will be spending millions of dollars of their own money, anonymously, to shape your opinion with no rules against telling outright lies. I hate to sound melodramatic but the fate of our nation may indeed rest on our ability to distinguish fact from fiction.
Woodall's lie is an excellent example of what we need to be on guard against. While this one small lie may seem inconsequential there are thousands upon thousands of such deliberate factual misrepresentations littering the internet. The cumulative effect of these is to create a complete false sense of reality for those of us unwilling to question them. Even if you're a Woodall supporter you should be willing to demand the truth, no matter how inconvenient it may be. Not doing so may well prove to be bad for your health.