Remember when it turned out that Roy Blunt had decided to pass along a few whoppers about Democratic health care reform proposals? Turns out that he isn’t the only member of Missouri’s congressional delegation whose pants should be on fire (as in “liar, liar …) — or at least smoldering.  

Rep. Todd “String-’em-up” Akin (R-2nd D.) also does a really bang-up job of scamming the public. His speciality is taking true or partially true facts out of context and using them to draw false conclusions — although he also sprinkles on a few outright fibs for garnish.  

Exhibit A is  the  most recent Akin Alert – and no it is not, as its title suggests, a warning that Akin is getting ready to ambush us in a dark alley somewhere, but rather an electronic newsletter for his constituents of which I am, sadly, one.  Since Akin has not, to my knowledge, been holding town halls (with the exception of his canned Freedom Conference), he  has dedicated the most recent Alert  to his critique of Democratic health care reform proposals.   Unfortunately for his constituents informational needs, very few of his assertions can stand up to the light of day.  If you are interested in what he is telling Missouri citizens about one off the most important topics of this decade, follow me over the fold:

Akin says:  “According to recent estimates, the House healthcare bill will cost $1.6 trillion.”

The Facts:  Here Akin is sort of on the money, so to speak –  if you ignore his sins of omission.  He gives no indication that this figure covers a ten year period.  He also fails to provide a meaningful context:

A price tag of $1.6 trillion seems immense if one contemplates the figure in the abstract. It is, however, only about 4 percent of the total cumulative health spending of $40 trillion, the amount government actuaries now project for the decade from 2010 to 2020. That is also less than the 6 to 7 percent that total national health spending has increased each year in the past decade.[emphasis added]

According to The Economic Case for Health Care Reform , a report issued by the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA):

Successful health care reform will slow the growth rate of health care costs, maintain choices of doctors and health plans, and expand coverage. Slowing the growth rate of costs by 1.5 percentage points per year would have a dramatic impact on the trajectory of health care expenditures as a share of GDP over time.

.

I think what these folks are saying is that the $1.6 trillion figure could be a really good deal given the alternatives.

Akin says: “4.7 million jobs would be lost because of the majority’s health care bill,, according to labor market analysis using the model developed by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors Chair, Christina Romer.

The Facts: It is odd that a model developed by the CEA could be made to yield such an outcome since the CEA report states the exact opposite:

Slowing cost growth would lower the unemployment rate consistent with steady inflation by approximately one-quarter of a percentage point for a number of years. The beneficial impact on employment in the short and medium run (relative to the no-reform baseline) is estimated to be approximately 500,000 each year that the effect is felt.

Akin says:  “The trouble is that because most small businesses pay their taxes as part of their owners’ individual tax filing, a majority of those hit by this new tax will be small businesses.”

The Facts: The basis for this claim is a proposed surtax on the wealthiest Americans which could result in businesses making between $250,000-$500,000 paying a surtax of 1%  (1.5% on those making more than $500,000 – if you want to quibble, Akin got this wrong too, claiming that the proposed surtax would be to 1.5% on all incomes over $250,000).

However, this tax would hardly result in a blood-bath for small businesses; according to Mediamatters.com, the:

… nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that only 4.1% of all small business owners would be affected by the health care surcharge.

On a related matter, Akin commits another sin of omission when he observes that businesses would pay an 8% payroll tax if they choose not to provide insurance to their employees, but fails to note that small businesses with payrolls less than $250,000 would be exempt from this tax. Since he claims to be concerned about the impact on small businesses, it’s odd that he would overlook this important fact.

Akin says:  “Through Medicare and Medicaid, government has already assumed responsibility for a great deal of health coverage. These programs are bankrupt and plagued by fraud.”

The Facts:  Wrong! Neither Medicare nor Medicaid is  bankrupt  nor will they be if, as Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institute argues, we can actually reform health care along the lines proposed by the Obama administration:

That the United States faces daunting long-term budget challenges is indisputable. But the very projections-those of the Congressional Budget Office-cited to document the long-term budget challenge, show that there is no general entitlement problem. Rather, the nation faces a daunting health care financing problem that bedevils private insurers and public programs alike.

As for fraud, Medicare and Medicaid do not have a monopoly on the problem; insurance fraud is rife among private insurers as well. Of course, one of the reasons that these these health programs are so susceptible to fraud is the fee-for-service structure which may be addressed through the current health-care reform process..

Akin says: “According to analysis by the Lewin Group, more than 83 million Americans would lose their current private health coverage under this plan and 103 million would move onto taxpayer subsidized health plans. This massive shift would lead to more health care decisions being made by bureaucrats in Washington and longer wait times for individual patients. In fact, under a similar system in the United Kingdom, cancer survival rates are 18.1 percent lower for men and 13.6 percent lower for women, than in the U.S.”

The Facts:  Insult added to injury! Akin conveniently omits the fact that the source of these numbers, the Lewin Group, is owned by one of the country’s largest insurers, UnitedHealth Group and that their findings are highly suspect.  In fact:

The Congressional Budget Office came to a different conclusion, saying that enrollment in the House Democrats’ proposed public plan would total 11 million to 12 million people.

Hardly amounts to the destruction of the private insurance indu
stry (although that might be a “consummation devoutly to be wished” – but that is another matter for another time).

Incidentally, if that little nugget about U.S and U.K. cancer survival rates caught your eye, you should know that  it is only true insofar as it pertains to a some of types of cancer.  Survival rates for different types of cancer vary from country to country for a number of reasons – of which the payment mechanism, be it public or private, is of minimal if any importance.  In fact, while U.S. survival rates for breast cancer are much better than in the U.K., Cuba, where health care is truly government-run, thank-you-very-much, has better survival rates than the U.S.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a little perplexing that Todd Akin, winner of the 2007 Christian Statesman Award, should be spreading all these seemingly deliberate falshehoods.  Surely, as a Christian, Akin must be familiar with the 9th commandment.  If you live in his district, I hope you will remind him of just what it says (Exodus 20:16) and let him know how disappointing his failure to do his Christian duty is.

(Cartoon by Nicholson from “The Australian” newspaper: http://www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au.)