Debunking myths about the Affordable Care Act

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by Doug Miller / KHOU.com

KHOU.com

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 5:53 PM

The government's going to implant a tracking chip in your body! The feds are going to dictate what you can eat! They're getting rid of Medicare! Everybody who's overweight is getting fired!

No joke. Those are some of the rumors flying around about the Affordable Care Act.

All you need to do to hear wild stories about the nation's new health insurance plan is just ask around. Eventually, you'll find somebody who's heard a strange story about an impending consequence of the law.

That's what brought us to the Legacy Community Services clinic in Montrose. As Kathy Cavazos dropped by the clinic for her annual check-up, we decided to check up on what she's heard about the new law. Just like most people, she's confused, but she admits she's heard some silly stuff.

"Something about your wrist or putting some type of chip inside your skin so they could, like, track us and know everything about us," she said, with just enough of a laugh to reflect her skepticism.

As the Affordable Care Act rolls out across the land, the landmark legislation is bubbling in a stew of urban myths, misunderstandings and downright lunacy. The complicated health care law was bound to cause confusion. Still, some of the more outlandish stories actually seem to have sprung from reality.

The Poynter Institute, which is something of a think tank for American journalists, recently sponsored an especially informative seminar with one of the nation’s most respected health care reporters. One of the more interesting topics raised by Julie Rovner of National Public Radio was her list of myths about the new law and the kernels of truth that apparently spawned them.

But with thanks and credit to Rovner, here’s a summary of her most intriguing examples.

Take the idea that people who buy into government promoted health plans will be implanted with microchips. No, it’s not true. But the myth may have started with an abortive plan for a registry of medical devices, like hip implants. Around the same time, it seems the FDA approved the first microchip that could store medical information inside the human body. Somehow, the two apparently got confused and an urban legend was born. Ironically, the medical device registry never even made it into the final version of the ACA.

Another wild rumor asserts that the law will dictate what you can and cannot eat. Untrue, but a section of the ACA dealing with wellness requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to release nutritional information, including calorie counts, for most items on their menus.

And then, there’s the idea that you’ll have to pay taxes on your health insurance benefits. Sure, beginning next year, if you have health insurance provided by your employer, your W-2 form will show how much your company pays for it. But those benefits are still exempt from income tax.

If you hear a rumor about the new health insurance law, there are plenty of resources for checking out its veracity. The first line of defense against urban myths is Snopes.com, an invaluable site for debunking untrue stories spreading on the web.

And truth be told, there are so many crazy stories circulating, it’s no wonder people like Kathy Cavazos are confused.

“I don’t know what to believe,” she says.

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