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FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Nov. 17 – Nov. 23

This week, readers sent us comments on small businesses and health care, the recovery act and jobs, and a pimp Photoshop contest.

In the FactCheck Mailbag we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

The Cost of Health Care

Factcheck tries to play down the costs small businesses would sustain under the House plan ["Health Care and the Economy" Nov. 17]. Forcing a business of any size to pay for something not currently paid for means the cost for employees goes up. In my case, I would exceed the 500K threshold. Even with credits and the insurance exchange, I could be paying a significant amount of money for health insurance not currently paid. What does this mean? I will have to downsize my staff to offset the costs. It isn’t a cost that can just be readily absorbed. This is the problem with government run health care. Factcheck is making it sound like it would not cost a business much at all when in fact it could cost a significant amount. Upwards of 10-15K per employee. Right now, I have 38 employees. That’s means $380,000 MORE I would have to pay to keep said employees. Where is this money going to come from? Even if the government credits offset this by half that is STILL $190K plus. I think Factcheck has lost objectivity in this regard and has taken a political position. …

This is the real cost to America of the Democrats desire to provide health care to everyone. There will be a definite cost in terms of more unemployment that is being downplayed. Employers cannot absorb these costs and will have to offset those costs by eliminating how many ever employees it takes to keep costs the same to do business. Many businesses, including mine, may just end up closing our doors too. Why is FactCheck not considering this?

James Gregg
Huntsville, Ala.

FactCheck.org responds: We cited an expert’s estimate of $949 per worker as the added cost to a firm of 25-100 employees. That figure is an average, and assumes some firms won’t cover their workers because they will find it less expensive to pay the payroll tax penalty instead. We realize that’s only an average, and that each business is different.

Your story has incomplete information on the House bill regarding health care reform. Your analysis doesn’t include the costs of dependent care coverage. This is very, very important. Under the House legislation, employers would be required to cover their employees dependents as well. This is what scares the hell out of business owners like me. If I am responsible for all of my employees’ dependent benefits, it can cost me more than $200,000 than I am paying now! I am a 60-employee newspaper company.

John Garrett
Round Rock, Texas


Jail Time

I usually appreciate your work. But today I found your conclusion something only a partisan or lawyer would like. You have provided more nuanced conclusions before, and I think you missed the ball on this topic.

Today the Portland Oregonian published your "Jail time is unlikely if you fail to pay tax …" fact check ["Imprisoned for Not Having Health Care?" Nov. 13].
You concluded the claim was false because Congress didn’t create a new, separate federal penalty for not having health insurance, but instead relied on the existing tax code penalty for not paying taxes.

I think that’s a mere technicality and your conclusion should reflect that. You substantiated the cause-and-effect relationship: If you don’t have health coverage, you’ll be penalized. That’s not the case today, but would be the case were the bill to pass. The detail that Congress uses the tax code to effect the penalty makes little difference to the point of the claim.

Your Web site says you aim "to reduce the level of deception and confusion," a goal I strongly support. In this case, however, I argue that’s best achieved by a summary more along the lines of, "technically false, but effectively true."

Mike Davis
Beaverton, Ore.

Honest Errors

Your coverage of the recovery act’s problems relative to jobs and congressional districts pretty much stated the obvious ["Real Jobs, Fake Districts?" Nov. 18]. There are nonexistent districts.

However, there are at least two factors contributing to these errors that needed to be emphasized. First, these are reporting errors made not by the administration but by firms that filed relative to jobs created under the Recovery Act. Second, and most important, we have in this online public access the most transparent reporting of any fiscal program in the history of the United States government. What occurs is that the raw data submitted to the government is immediately made available to the public. Anyone who works with data and stats knows that this is bound to create errors that would otherwise be revised and culled in the process of going from raw to finished data.

While there is a degree of "embarassment" in the situation, it is not an attempt by the administration to distort or to mislead. If that were the case, believe me, it wouldn’t be by using such crude errors, so easily caught. The lesson here is that if we are going to have transparency in reporting, it must be realized that there are inevitable mistakes that will occur.

Donald Negri
Sacramento, Calif.


Studies Aren’t Good Sources

How can you purport to be fact-checking this issue ["Malpractice: Savings Reconsidered," Oct. 13] without examining the actual results being achieved in states like Texas which recently passed legislation at the state level restricting malpractice awards. Doctors are returning to that state in droves after having left out of frustration, and insurance rates are dropping.

And how can you purport to be fact-checking the monstrosity of Obamacare without referring to the disastrous results generated by government-run health care programs in Massachusetts and Tennessee?

Citing studies and opinions is a cop out. You owe your readers at least a passing mention of “facts on the ground,” which are so much more meaningful.

Jim Werness
Edina, Minn.

FactCheck.org responds: The malpractice article said that a new nonpartisan study found that limiting malpractice liability could reduce national health care spending by 0.5 percent. That conclusion was based on various studies of real-life experiences. As for Massachusetts’ health care overhaul, the program most referenced in comparisons to what federal legislation aims to do, many would disagree with the opinion that it has been "disastrous."


Pimp Contest Misrepresented

I am a regular reader of your e-mails, which I find invaluable. However, your tidbit about the Obamas dressed in garish costumes was unfair ["Extras" Nov. 20]. The pictures were part of an "If Pimps Ruled the World" Photoshop contest; Abraham Lincoln and many others were similarly parodied in "pimp attire." Your item left the misleading impression it was some gratuitous parody of the Obamas alone rather than referring to the theme and others similarly parodied.

David Sternlight
Los Angeles, Calif.


Thankful for FactCheck

Having been a subscriber since FactCheck was in its infancy (and partly because both my kids went to PENN & I enjoy seeing the university’s role in the national dialog), please accept my congratulations and thanks for the exceptional objectivity, clarity and thoroughness that your team delivers. Although there have been innumerable articles worthy of this note before this day, the post on the 17th ("Health Care and the Economy") just resonated as exemplary of how well FactCheck succeeds at its mission.

Dick Wurst
Melville, N.Y.