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Reality Check: Health Insurance Reform and Guns
11:31 AM EDT
It’s amazing that after so many months debating health insurance reform, sometimes a myth we see being spread about it can still surprise us. In October, for example, we saw a rather shocking claim that one bill being debated in the Senate "could be used to ban guns in home self-defense." Politifact appropriately dismissed that claim as false, and we thought we could all move on from bizarre claims that reform was related to the 2nd Amendment in any way whatsoever.
But apparently the Gun Owners of America, the same group that propagated that ridiculous claim, had simply gone back to the drawing board. Today they sent out an alert misleading their members again, raising the specter of some massive government database of "gun-related health data" despite the fact that there is no mention "gun-related health data" or anything like it anywhere in either the Senate or the House bills.
RHETORIC: GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA CLAIMS THAT HEALTH REFORM LEGISLATION WILL "DUMP YOUR GUN-RELATED HEALTH DATA” INTO A GOVERNMENT DATABASE WHICH CAN BE USED TO "PRECLUDE YOU FROM OWNING FIREARMS." The Gun Owners of America (GOA) claim that "the mandates in [the Senate's health reform] legislation will most likely dump your gun-related health data into a government database that was created in section 13001 of the stimulus bill. This includes any firearms-related information your doctor has gleaned... or any determination of PTSD, or something similar, that can preclude you from owning firearms." [Gun Owners of America Alert, 11/20/09]
REALITY: NOTHING IN THE SENATE BILL WOULD RESULT IN "GUN-RELATED HEALTH DATA" BEING SUBMITTED TO THE GOVERNMENT. There is no mention of "gun-related health data" anywhere in the Senate’s health reform bill and there is nothing in the bill that would result in any such data being reported to the government. The bill does provide guidelines for reporting of anonymous statistical information to help with research, but none of this would lead to gun ownership or “gun related health data” being included in reporting to the government. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]
RHETORIC: GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA CLAIMS THAT SECTION 2717 OF THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL WOULD ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT TO OFFER LOWER PREMIUMS TO EMPLOYERS IF THEIR EMPLOYEES DO NOT OWN GUNS. Gun Owners of America (GOA) claims that "Special ‘wellness and prevention’ programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles -- and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier." [Gun Owners of America Alert, 11/20/09]
REALITY: NOTHING IN THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL WOULD LEAD TO HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR GUN OWNERS OR A "DECREE" THAT GUN OWNERS ARE LESS HEALTHY THAN OTHERS. Section 2717 section creates guidelines for insurers to report on initiatives that improve quality of care and health outcomes, and it specifically lists what types of programs would be involved – such as smoking cessation, physical fitness, nutrition, heart disease prevention. There is no mention of guns, and there is no language that could result in higher premiums for gun owners or lower premiums for people who do not own guns. Section 2705 of the bill does permit employers to provide premium discounts for employee participation in health promotion and disease prevention programs, and it prohibits insurers from discriminating against individuals for specific reasons such as health status, medical history, and genetic information. It allows the Secretary to add other “health status-related” factors to the list. But again, there is no mention of guns, or any possibility that owning or not owning guns would ever be considered a "health status-related" issue. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]