If you were the recipient of a recent chain email that claimed to highlight items in the proposed House healthcare bill, H.R. 3200, as unconstitutional, you might want to visit the FactCheck.org site for a different perspective. The journalists on the FactCheck (http://factcheck.org) project wrote, "Our inbox has been overrun with messages asking us to weigh in on a mammoth list of claims about the House health care bill. The chain e-mail purports to give ‘a few highlights' from the first half of the bill, but the list of 48 assertions is filled with falsehoods, exaggerations and misinterpretations. We examined each of the e-mail's claims, finding 26 of them to be false and 18 to be misleading, only partly true or half true. Only four are accurate."
As a nonpartisan, nonprofit "consumer advocate" for voters, FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. It monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Its goals are to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship and to increase public knowledge and understanding. It's definitely a good site to know about when the fur is flying over important issues such as healthcare reform.
One state representative reportedly published a version of the chain email in a newsletter to constituents. You can read the email in full, as well as a point-by-point examination of the claims at www.factcheck.org/2009/08/twenty-six-lies-about-hr-3200. And just to show the power and vulnerability of our open means of communication, the site says, "We can trace the origins of this collection of claims to a conservative blogger who issued his instant and mostly mistaken analyses as brief ‘tweets' sent via Twitter as he was paging through the 1,017-page bill. The claims have been embraced as true and posted on hundreds of Web sites, and forwarded in the form of chain e-mails countless times." The blogger then retorted that they couldn't trace the email back to him. Here are the two links if you care to follow up:
Another illuminating site is PolitiFact.com (http://politifact.com), a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists, and interest groups and rate them on a Truth-O-Meter. It is also tracking more than 500 of Barack Obama's campaign promises and rating their progress on its Obameter. Its coverage of the healthcare chain email is available at http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/personalities/chain-email.
If you want to read the official version of the bill, go to the government's public access Federal Digital System (FDsys) at
H.R. 3200 (IH)-To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.
The official White House site has a section that covers important issues, including healthcare, at www.whitehouse.gov/issues/health_care. The administration has also posted a special site designed to provide a fact-checking function: Health Insurance Reform Reality Check (www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck). And for additional information, it refers visitors to HealthReform.gov (www.healthreform.gov).
One group pushing for "quality, affordable health care we all can count on" and solidly supporting the Obama agenda is Health Care for America Now (HCAN), a national grass-roots campaign of more than 1,000 organizations in 46 states. The site (http://healthcareforamericanow.org) provides information on the legislative process, state reports on affordability of health insurance, videos, news, etc.
For a decidedly different perspective, a site called Patients United Now (http://patientsunitednow.com) has posted information, FAQs, "Real Facts," videos of ads, user stories, and more. Patients United Now is a project of the nonprofit group Americans for Prosperity Foundation (www.americansforprosperity.org). Here's the premise of the group: "We believe patients and doctors should make health care choices, not Washington bureaucrats. We know America needs real health care reform focused on delivering affordable, quality choices to all Americans. And we know that a government takeover of our health care will hurt American patients by delaying-and denying-critical treatments."
The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org), a conservative public policy research institute, has posted a site called Fix Health Care Policy that says it provides "A Dose of Reality: Fact Checking the White House" (http://fixhealthcarepolicy.com/reality). It includes an archive of key documents, news, research, etc.
For More Information
The Alliance for Health Reform ("A nonpartisan, nonprofit group, the Alliance believes that all in the U.S. should have health coverage at a reasonable cost. But we do not lobby for any particular blueprint, nor do we take positions on legislation.")
Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform ("CAHR advocates market-based reforms to fix our nation's broken healthcare system. ...")
"Health Care Reform: An Online Guide," by Timothy Noah, Slate
Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan foundation that studies healthcare reform:
Side-by-Side Comparison of Major Health Care Reform Proposals
The New York Times: Times Topics-Health Care Reform
Prescriptions: a blog from The New York Times that tracks the healthcare debate as it unfolds; includes proposal comparisons, a timeline of the history of healthcare reform, the status of legislation, and more.
The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Overhaul
The Washington Post: Health-Care Reform 2009