Common Myths of the Affordable Care Act

lot of information – and misinformation – has swirled around when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. Here, we try to correct or clarify some of the common misperceptions regarding the health care reform.

Myth No. 1

Members of Congress are exempt from the health care law.

House and Senate members are subject to the mandate to have health insurance, just like all Americans. In fact, members of Congress and their staffs are actually required to purchase insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplaces. However, it is a unique setup. The confusion may be due to the fact that the federal government is the only large employer that is allowed to enter the marketplace. Members of Congress won't be eligible for tax credits or subsidies, but the federal government will still be able to contribute to their plans.

Myth No. 2

I'll have to give the IRS my personal health information.

You will receive a form each year from your insurance company to file with your tax return. You'll need to prove you have purchased insurance, but the IRS will not have access to information about your health status or the care you have received.

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Myth No. 3

There will be long wait times to see a doctor due to Obamacare.

With millions more people now able to get health care thanks to their new Affordable Care Act insurance plans, there will be a rise in demand for health care services. However, no one is entirely sure how that will affect wait times. History has shown us that it has tended not to matter, though. In 1965, when Medicare was launched, a New York Times article wrote about the concern that the millions of seniors who now had coverage would create an influx of patients that our health care professionals could not handle. This issue never ended up materializing. A more recent example is in Massachusetts, where the state program, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was the basis of the Affordable Care Act, has had no effect on wait times. Wait times were longer than the U.S. average before "Romneycare" and continue to be, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society.

Myth No. 4

The health care law includes a real estate sales tax that will make it harder to sell my home.

The health care law does add a 3.8 percent tax to unearned income, which includes profit from the sale of a home, starting in 2013. The money will go to help support the Medicare program. But that tax will not apply to sales of every home. Only couples who earn more than $250,000 ($200,000 for an individual) and make a profit of more than $500,000 ($250,000 for individuals) will be subject to the tax. If you don't fit that criteria, or qualify for other exemptions, you won't be subject to the tax.

Myth No. 5

The health care law will cause "rate shock" for young people, causing their insurance costs to skyrocket.

It's important to remember that much of this is speculation. It can be misleading to compare costs of the very basic plans available now to the types of plans approved by the health care law – qualified plans may cost more, but will also offer better coverage. Furthermore, many young people will qualify for some kind of federal subsidy to help them buy insurance.

Myth No. 6

The health care law forces companies to cut hours and spouse benefits.

The employer mandate part of the health care law requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide qualified health insurance to full-time workers, defined as anyone who works at least 30 hours a week. Some companies have publicly stated that they can't afford that, so they will cut hours to keep employees below the 30-hour threshold. The health care law does not force this, although some companies may take that route to handle increased costs. Similarly, the health care law does not require businesses to extend benefits to employees' spouses, so some businesses may choose to eliminate that option.

Myth No. 7

A new Medicare "death panel" will ration care and decide who is worthy of treatment.

There is nothing in the health care law that would lead to a panel choosing who lives and who dies, and it is strictly prohibited from rationing care. A cost-cutting board may be established if Medicare costs climb too high. It will be tasked with looking for new ways to save money, but will do that by streamlining services and/or adjusting provider reimbursement rates.

AARP, American Public Health Association, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Consumer Reports, FAIR Health, Inc., HealthCare.gov, Internal Revenue Service, Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid.gov, Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Every effort was made to provide clear, accurate information about health care reform. We verified any information we had with first-tier sources – those who are involved in this change and its effect on our health care system. We also relied on well-respected national nonprofits, some who've done a masterful job of providing clear information to consumers. Our primary source of information was the Affordable Care Act's official website, HealthCare.gov. If you need additional information about how health care reform affects you, that would be your best place to start.

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