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Thursday, August 20, 2009
NewsBusters Perpetuates Health Reform Falsehoods
Topic: NewsBusters

Rusty Weiss tries to perform debunking of claims about health care reform by attempted ridicule -- instead of, you know, using facts -- in an Aug. 19 NewsBusters post.

Citing a columnist who claimed that right-wing assertions that "the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions" are "all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue," responds, essentially, that they are true because right-winger said they were.

Weiss makes no attempt to actually examine the claims in question -- if, say, Michelle Malkin said it's true, then by golly it's true.

Weiss then claimed that the columnist "goes on to rip Sarah Palin as ignorant, calling her death panel comment as ‘inane' and ‘absurd'.  Therefore, if you too, believe the health care plan will lead to death panels, then you are not only as inane as Sarah Palin, but you're [sic] argument is as absurd as Rush Limbaugh's." Again, Weiss makes no effort to point out that the "death panels" claim has been repeatedly discredited, instead relying on an appeal to authority by assuming that anything Palin and Limbaugh say must be true, even though they have no demonstrated expertise on health-care issues.

Weiss went on to complain that "the liberal mainstream ‘fact-checking' media" reports that such arguments have been debunked by "fact-checking Web sites," then asks, "who is fact-checking the fact-checkers?  They have been refuted before; here, here, and here."

Weiss then attacks -- even though the link under his first "here" in the previous paragraph is a NewsBusters piece that defends FactCheck's research debunking various claims about Sarah Palin. Citing a FactCheck piece he fails to link to, Weiss writes:

In regards to the illegal immigrant aspect of the poll, claims this to be a false argument because ‘the House bill specifically says that no federal money would be spent on giving illegal immigrants health coverage'.  This completely ignores the amendment voted on and shot down by Democrats in the House Ways and Means Committee in July, which would have prevented illegal aliens from accessing taxpayer-funded health care benefits.  The measure would have enforced income, eligibility, and immigration verification screening on an estimated 9.6 million illegal immigrants. 

Why doesn't Weiss link to that FactCheck report: because it appears to debunk his final claim:

Of interest: About half of illegal immigrants have health insurance now, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center, which says those who lack insurance do so principally because their employers don’t offer it.

Further, Weiss is nitpicking. The question was whether the bill "would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants" -- which it doesn't. Further, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported:

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said Heller’s measure wasn’t needed because the bill prevents anyone in this country illegally from gaining federal help for premiums, just as current law prevents those people from gaining Medicaid and other medical coverage.

"The rejected amendment would have for the first time allowed insurance companies to access sensitive personal information to shop for customers and for other commercial purposes, while avoiding any responsibility to protect individual privacy or provide redress for errors as currently required of government agencies," said Doggett, the only Texas Democrat on the committee.

Weiss doesn't explain why such a violation of privacy -- which conservatives normally oppose -- is permissible in the pursuit of keeping illegal immigrants from getting public health insurance.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:29 AM EDT

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