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Fact Check: Gov. Perry on Health Care Reform

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You had to know that Gov. Rick Perry wasn’t going to let the health care reform bill pass the U.S. House last night without some fighting words.

The governor—one of the first prominent Republicans to tap into the anger among right-wing activists—was one of the last Texas officials to release a public statement on the health care bill. But when he did, he didn’t disappoint:

“Unfortunately, the health care vote had more to do with expanding socialism on American soil than it does fixing our health care finance and delivery systems. The Obama health care bill undermines patient choice, personal responsibility, medical innovation and fiscal responsibility in America.

“As passed by the U.S. House, the bill will cost Texas taxpayers billions more, and drive our nation much deeper into debt. Congress’s backroom deals and parliamentary maneuvers undermined the public trust and increased cynicism in our political process.

“Texas leaders will continue to do everything in our power to fight this federal excess and find ways to protect our families, taxpayers and medical providers from this gross federal overreach.”

Couple of doozies in there. 

First, the health care reform bill can’t be classified as socialism, at least by any reasonable definition. The bill does slightly expand government’s role in health care delivery. But it largely maintains the private system we currently have, though with more regulation. The bill doesn’t create a government-run, single-payer system that many liberals had pined for. Instead, most Americans will still receive their health insurance from private companies operating in regulated markets. It’s a centrist, moderate reform similar to the one that Republican Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts in 2006.

But the biggest whopper is Perry’s claim that the reform bill will “drive our nation much deeper into debt.” 

That simply isn’t so. In fact, the opposite is true. The health care reform will greatly improve the nation’s long-term finances.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will reduce the federal debt by $143 billion in the next 10 years. And the savings would increase after that. 

The reform bill accomplishes much of its debt reduction by greatly improving the fiscal health of Medicare. The bill pares down the costly program known as Medicare Advantage, which distributes benefits through private insurance companies. Additional savings come from insuring tens of millions of Americans who currently lack coverage. You can read the CBO analysis here

Despite claims from Perry and other opponents, the health care bill is actually fiscally conservative legislation—at least going by the budget figures.

The bill is not only affordable, but it may save the federal government hundreds of billions in the next two decades. 

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.