By Timothy D. McBride

Despite the importance of passing health care reform, it appears that the general public has very little understanding of the scope and importance of these reforms, or how the wide-ranging positive benefits will have on average Americans.

Much of this is due to overheated rhetoric, a misunderstanding of the proposals by the press, purposeful distortions by both sides of the debate, and the complexity of health reform. For example, much attention has been paid to the so-called “public option” which the right wing has described as a “government takeover of health care,” and the left wing has described as the only provision worth fighting for because it will keep the insurance plans “honest.” Both claims overstate the significance of the public option since by all estimates, even if it survives, not many will sign up for it, and the plan will resemble private plans, not a Medicare plan.

When the reforms are phased in, 96 percent of American citizens will be covered by health insurance -- up from an insurance rate of 83 percent today -- according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. Contrary to fears that the legislation will lead to a government-run health system, 58 percent of the persons obtaining coverage will obtain coverage from private insurers, in a new Health Insurance Exchange. This Exchange will be much like the array of private insurance plans offered to Congress and the President today. The remaining persons insured under the plan would be low-income children and adults insured through Medicaid and the children’s health insurance plan.

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