Just the facts

One of the things that has made the health care reform discussion so challenging is the amount of information that’s circulating – on the airwaves, in print media, in e-mails and on the Internet. After awhile, it becomes difficult for people to sort out what’s fact, what’s opinion, what’s speculation and what’s spin.

So here’s some help to get you started. The following Web sites are primarily nonpartisan and fact-based. They are good places to go if you’re looking for basic information or want to check out whether something you’ve heard is true.

- FactCheck.org is an independent project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. It examines claims, analyzes who’s saying what, and even answers readers’ questions. A couple of current good reads on the site include this takedown on "Seven Falsehoods About Health Care" and a rebuttal of the claims that H.R. 3200 will promote euthanasia for seniors. The site also offers an analysis, such as this one, of what the president and Congress are saying and then compares it with the facts.

- PolitiFact.com is sponsored by the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. Its best feature: a Truth-O-Meter that helps sort fact from fiction at a glance. What about the claims that health care reform won’t affect veterans’ benefits? True, according to the Truth-O-Meter. What about Obama’s statement that the health care plan for members of Congress is "no better than the janitor who cleans their offices"? That’s true as well.

- Kaiser Health News. This site offers a good roundup of health care in the news. It also offers links to other media outlets, such as this q-and-a on the major issues in health care reform.

I’m posting the link to the official White House site, because it’s hard to have a worthwhile debate about the issues if you don’t know what the president and his White House team have actually said. Ditto for the president’s official health care reform site, healthreform.gov.

The entire 1,018-page text of H.R. 3200 can be found here.

I was at the town hall meeting that Rep. Collin Peterson hosted in Willmar this past Friday. People are passionate about this issue; health care is something that’s personal to all of us. MinnPost took a look last week at why health care reform has brought so much angst to the surface. Americans have been buffeted by social change and they’re fearful about the economy and about their future, writer Sharon Schmickle explains.

But it goes deeper than that, she suggests:

Brush aside the fear, and you find Americans engaged in a tradeoff of ideals.

On one hand, we’ve been taught to help one another. Other major nations take care of their sick and we should too, the argument goes.

On the other hand, many argue convincingly that America is best served when individuals look out for their own interests and don’t wait for government to do it for them.

Polls suggest that most Americans care about the uninsured. But what if the fear-driven national mood tilts toward individual interests, if the millions who have coverage choose not to risk rocking the system for the sake of the uninsured?

Tough questions. But if we’re going to debate them, we ought to at least know some of the facts.