Friday, August 3rd, 2012
The Internet Age has brought us the Email of Doom. An Email of Doom is one of those long screeds people forward to each other that warn us about the government’s secret program to do something crazy that will end civilization as we know it. These show up in everyone’s e-mailbox with dreary regularity, and they are nearly always just hysterical rumors.
Many emails of doom are about “Obamacare,” the health care reform law. Some of the rumors have been debunked here already — that everyone will have to be implanted with a microchip, for example. Not true.
Here is one of the “hot” Obamacare rumors that may be in your mailbox already:
“Under the new health care bill — did you know that all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8% Sales Tax? The bulk of these new taxes don’t kick in until 2013 (presumably after Obama’s re-election). You can thank Nancy, Harry and Barack and your local Democrat Congressman for this one. If you sell your $400,000 home, there will be a $15,200 tax. “
Not true, says the National Association of Realtors:
“There is neither a real estate ’sales tax’ nor a real estate transfer tax under any federal law. The Internet has generated several viral items describing such a tax. Those Internet postings are totally false.”
Uncertainty about the future of Medicare may be behind some new rumors about Medicare. One new rumor says that Medicare regulations require doctors to ask patients if they own guns (this appears to be an update of an old Internet rumor about the Veterans Administration). There is no such requirement. Sometimes doctors do ask about guns, especially if they think the patient may be depressed or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But neither Medicare nor the VA requires this.
Sometimes these rumors are not limited to email from anonymous sources; they also get picked up by politicians and news media. For example, it is often declared that “Obamacare” is being funded by a $500 billion cut to Medicare. But as Bruce Watson of DailyFinance.com explains, funding for Medicare actually is going up, not down. Medicare recently has added some benefits, such as a free annual checkup.
The confusion came about because the Affordable Care Act (”Obamacare”) makes some administrative changes in the Medicare program that should reduce the rate of increase of Medicare costs. It cut overpayments to Medicare Plus insurance companies and also provides for more vigorous investigation and prosecution of fraud. Somebody, somewhere, took these savings estimates out of context and started calling them “Medicare cuts.”
However the emails of doom originate, they certainly aren’t helping us have a coherent national conversation about health care in America. When large numbers of Americans are hoodwinked into believing that government “death panels” will euthanize their grandmas, rational discussions are impossible.
And that’s a shame, because the future of health care is one of the most important topics on the national agenda. Skyrocketing costs are a drag on the economy, and more and more Americans have found themselves bankrupted by medical bills because they couldn’t afford insurance. Whether you are healthy or suffering from life-threatening mesothelioma, how our government responds to this crisis will affect you in a big way, sooner or later.