A Consumer’s Guide to the New Health Law

Fair. Unbiased. Evenhanded. We have produced something that is genuinely unique. It’s a consumer’s guide to how the new health care overhaul works, in a question-and-answer format. You can also get a pamphlet version — ideal for doctors’ offices, clinics, work places and everywhere else that people meet and socialize.

When you read the consumer’s guide, I think you’ll agree with me that it’s the first effort anyone has made to even try to be objective, and that in itself is rather amazing. See if you agree. Give us your comments below the fold.

During the nine-month period leading up to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Americans were subjected to more than $200 million worth of TV, radio, newsprint and Internet ads. Almost all of these — pro and con — were pure propaganda.

Even today, the White House and leaders of both political parties offer us little more than sound bites crafted for the evening news. A taxpayer-funded mailing to Medicare enrollees has been accused of selling more than informing. The government’s own Web site, while containing much valuable information, touts only the benefits of reform and ignores the costs. It focuses on what might go right and ignores what might go wrong. A 24-page PowerPoint presentation, prepared for members of Congress who voted for PPACA, advises on words to use and words to avoid. It’s all about spinning, not about informing.

Most of the mainstream media has published “talking points” lists of the benefits prepared by the White House. We don’t know of any regular news source that has reported in a similar way on the costs. The New York Times editorials on the subject have tended to be apologies for the PPACA — implying it delivers all gain, no pain. Even health policy journals have largely ignored the costs of reform and who will bear them. On the other side, Internet screeds warning of “death panels” have exaggerated from the opposite direction.

Many people are rightly confused about what to expect and why. We hope this publication will clear the air. Our goal is a balanced overview, with all important content sourced from government reports and other reputable documents.

Comments (24)

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  1. Vicki says:

    I had already seen it. Impressive. It’s also fair and balanced.

  2. Ken says:

    Ditto Vicki’s comment.

  3. Virginia says:

    Wow. That’s quite a substantial publication. I’ll take a look this afternoon.

  4. Joe S. says:

    I think you are right. There isn’t anything like this out there. It’s a good resource.

  5. Neil H. says:

    Very comprehensive. Very good.

  6. artk says:

    It’s far from evenhanded, but given the NCPA is funded by opponents any health care reform and of the current administration it’s as fair as they are capable of. Oh, in the interest of transparency, why don’t you list the top 10 foundations, corporation and individual donors.

  7. Philip Weintraub says:


    Interesting publication. My first quick review gives me the impression that your group of authors favors the return to the “good old days” of an individual’s health being solely dependent on income status –and economic bankruptcy being one chronic disease away.

  8. Erik Ramirez says:

    Sorry John,
    I would not send this to my clients. It is informational but it has a negative tone to it.

  9. John Goodman says:

    artk, try taking the I-Promise-to-Not-Be-Like-Paul-Krugman-for-Just-One-Day pledge and practice disagreeing with people without questioning their integrity or their motives. You’ll find life is much more pleasant.

    Phil, go to the last section and read about our own reform ideas, which basically promise universal coverage without all of the baggage of ObamaCare. These are reform ideas we have been writing about for 20 years and to artk’s point we have yet to find a single corporation to endorse them. Take that back. The CEO of Whole Foods does agree with me almost straight down the line, but they have never given us a dime.

  10. artk says:

    John, one of your key tenants is that people act in their economic best interest. There’s an old saying, if you eat at my table, you dance to my tune. Are you saying that you’re not a rational economic actor? Are you saying that you’re immune from the everyone acts in their economic self interest free market analysis that the basis of all your work? Just make your top funders a matter of public record, and then people can decide on their own.

  11. Linda Gorman says:

    Philip–in the US an individual’s health never been solely dependent on his income status. Charities hvae provided, and continue to provide, a great deal of care and deserve recognition for their efforts.

  12. Virginia says:

    I just finished reading it. You guys produced a comprehensive discussion of the bill, and I think it’s a great document. I already forwarded it to a bunch of my friends.

    Great work.

  13. Tom H. says:

    I agree with Virginia. Nice job. There are a lot of nuggets in here that will surprise people. They surprised me.

  14. Bart Ingles says:

    I can go along with the last section, with reservations about items 2 and 4. I have yet to see a justification for providing tax subsidies against premiums for underwritten insurance policies, but I agree that non-employer insurance which would meet all the ERISA/HIPAA requirments should be entitled to the same tax treatment, and that in both cases any tax breaks should be non-regressive.

    On item 4, selling insurance across state lines– which essentially means exempting out-of-state insurers from state regulations– is neither necessary nor sufficient for meaningful reform in most states, and is contrary to the idea of states as laboratories.

    If, after meaningful reform at the federal level, the less restrictive states are shown to have better-functioning insurance markets, then there will be plenty of pressure to reform the more restrictive states. Across-state-lines sales may or may not be useful as a last resort, but at best this distraction belongs on a back burner for now.

  15. Chris Ewin, MD says:

    Writing a check is the difference between conversation and commitment. Warren Buffett

    I just ordered 500….I have the opportunity to engage my patients with info that is factual IMO.
    I will share it with my colleagues b/c we are at the point of care and we are getting sidetracked by our patients questions and concerns.

    The most important point is that I not only sit at their table, I serve them too. I don’t dance, I just try to give them a better day.

  16. Sid Bondurant, MD says:

    Excellent summary. The “negative tone” mention by one commenter is only there because the overall impression of Obamacare by a majority of the population (57% in a recent Rassmussen poll) is negative. Obamacare is one big negative. One typo, on page 36 under “Worse Access to Care” paragraph 2 it appears you printed “Medicare” where you should have put “Medicaid.”

  17. Chris Ewin, MD says:

    Regarding the power point, it’s interesting the spin on cost concerns…tax the rich.
    And how it addresses provider scarcity by saying that an unprecedented # of healthcare providers are being trained.
    ???? Sounds outlandish to me. I wonder where the data is that supports that claim.
    We certainly aren’t seeing a growing supply of primary care physicians.

  18. artk says:

    Dr. Ewin, the NCPA doesn’t hid the fact that it has a distinct political bias. When you say “engage my patients”, that means when someone is in your office looking for treatment, you’re going us the fact you have a captive audience to initiate conversations and provide them with material to convince them to agree with your view of the health care law. In my view, that’s unethical.

  19. Greg says:

    artk, you are not only insulting to John Goodman and the NCPA (have you posted your tax return along with you comments?), you are apparently very ignorant about how think tanks work.

    Academics associated with think tanks — whether left or right — almost never change their minds because of an offer of money. Also, corporations almost never try that. It is a hundred times easier for a corporation to find a think tank that already agrees with it (at least on an issue or two) than to try to persuade some other think tank to change its mind.

    So I second John Goodman’s suggestion to you: take the pledge.

  20. Beverly Gossage says:

    Thank you for the guide, John.

    Here are some facts for you.

    Keeping “dependents” on a policy until they turn 26 sounds like a good idea, but several states had already done this. Plus the fact is most 20-somethings can get a private policy for about one-fourth the cost of a group plan.

    Some parents have found these affordable private policies for their youngsters. But on October 1st a negative effect on the private health insurance market will become apparent to some Americans as they see their choices reduced thanks to PPACA. Carriers have begun to announce rate increases and plan option reductions. The most notable change? Child-only policies will no longer be offered.


  21. artk says:

    Greg, I make my money as a derivatives trader. Anytime I offer my advice on a position I tell people if I’m talking my book. I’m not insulted by people wanting me to disclose any conflicts of interest.

    I think that if you’re making public policy pronouncements you should disclose who pays your bills. It’s not insulting, it’s just an acknowledgement that in a capitalist society money exerts its influence everywhere.

  22. Greg says:

    Whereas in a noncapitalist society, money is ignored?

    I think I am entitled to express an opinion without being subjected to argument ad hominem. I’m not selling you something, artk. I’m just expressing an opinion.

    Practice separating the opinion from the person who offers it. The opinion is either true or false — regardless of why the person holds it.

    Motives can be evil. They can be pure. They can be corrupted. The truth of the argument has nothing to do with any of that.

  23. John Seater says:

    I don’t contribute to NCPA but I do read John Goodman’s stuff. I like it because I am a professional economist and John uses economics in a disciplined way. Nonetheless, I half agree with artk. Why shouldn’t the names of NCPA’s donors be made public? (Maybe they already are. I don’t know.) I can judge the economics of John’s arguments myself because I have the requisite training, but other people can’t and would want to condition their acceptance of John’s arguments on possible bias induced by funding sources.

    I said I only half agreed with artk. The reason is that artk’s first post was very different in substance and tone from his last. The last was reasonable, whereas the first was unnecessarily rude and, worse, internally inconsistent. First artk declared that NCPA was funded by organizations that oppose all health reform (seems unlikely to me but let that pass) and the Obama administration. Then artk ended the post by wondering who the funding organizations are. If he doesn’t know who they are, how does he know they oppose all health care reform and oppose the Obama administration?

    Just who is it who is biased and incapable of evenhanded analysis here?

    Seems to me you need to do some explaining or some apologizing, artk.

  24. Rich Campbell says:

    Use of the term “ObamaCare” is a right-wing, derogatory and inflammatory term. This was passed by the House and Senate, the Legislative branches, and the president signed it. So far the Supreme Court has not ruled on it’s constitutionality, but all branches of government brought this about because their constituencies wanted it.

    It is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and calling anything else exposes bias.