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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Health Care Nostrums

The Republican National Committee has released a new Web ad about health care. The RNC has some fun with the issue, framing its ad as a parody of pharmaceutical advertisements. Warning: trying to sort out fact from fiction in this video may lead to headaches, shortness of patience, and excessive Googling. If you experience any of these side effects, we recommend consulting the FactCheck.org archives.

The ad offers the sobering fine-print side effects of "Reforma," the health care reform "drug." Unfortunately, the RNC also has a little fun with the facts. 

The implication: Health care reform is snake oil, peddled as a panacea but causing all kinds of negative side effects. It’s a cute ad, but the people who wrote the fine print for Reforma don’t seem to have read the fine print, or even the medium-size print, on the bill. There’s no finalized health care legislation yet, of course, but we’ve already talked about the claims that the House bill and other serious proposals would constitute "government takeover" of health care, force people to stop seeing their doctors or give up their insurance, allow the government to deny care based on age, or prevent "actual medical care." They’re all false or overblown.

We won’t speculate on how high a cost those watching the ad "can possibly imagine," though we can recommend the book "How Much is a Million" for RNC admakers who find their imaginations taxed. At any rate, the CBO estimates that the legislation would cost closer to $1 trillion total over 10 years than the $1.6 trillion the RNC claims. That’s significant, but $600 billion less than the ad says. Early CBO estimates did put the Senate Finance Committee’s version at $1.6 trillion, but committee members are working to get costs down. The panel has not yet produced a final bill.

The RNC also overlooks a key aspect of its metaphor: You take drugs to cure a disease. The side effects may be nasty, but people rarely opt for untreated illness instead — that’s why the pharmaceutical industry still makes enough money for TV ads. The Democratic National Committee looks at the flip side, showing what might happen if the current health care system remains untreated: 

This one is speculative, but it has more facts on its side. As Obama has said a number of times, premium costs have in fact been rising faster than wages. Insurance companies do routinely deny coverage, one thing that the new legislation aims to change. And while the average monthly premium for a family with employer-sponsored coverage is $280, it’s certainly possible that some families’ premiums would be high enough to endanger their ability to pay other expenses. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, individually purchased policies can run to over $9,000 per year.

Of course, this ad is a big horse vitamin, healthy but hard to swallow, while the RNC ad is a faddish diet supplement — zero real content, lots of over-the-counter appeal. We don’t have to tell you which one got 10 times more views on YouTube. Pass the aspirin.