Raleigh, N.C. — Sen. Phil Berger is trying to rile up support for a state measure that would buck two key provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.
"Please help me stop Obamacare in North Carolina," Berger writes on his campaign website. The note continues:
We already passed a bill in the Senate that protects us from:
- The government turning our health records over to the IRS
- Government-forced insurance
- Billions in new taxes on businesses and the people of North Carolina
The form then invites people to sign a petition that would presumably be presented to opponents of Senate Bill 4.
Specifically, the bill prohibits the state from expanding its Medicaid program in response to the federal Affordable Care Act or participating in the state health insurance exchanges created by the act.
The House Health Committee is due to hear the bill on Tuesday, and House lawmakers say they don't plan to alter the Senate bill much. Gov. Pat McCrory has asked lawmakers consider the impact on federal funding for a state information technology system, but it seems unlikely that either the House or McCrory would suddenly embrace a health insurance exchange or suddenly agree to expand Medicaid.
So who exactly is Berger petitioning?
"Sen. Berger is passionate about this issue, it's our job on the political side to promote his policies and to raise awareness of the work he's doing in the N.C. Senate," said Ray Martin, a Republican Party staffer who works for the GOP Senate caucus.
Berger was not available for comment Friday, Martin said.
It's worth noting that there are health care advocates who say expanding Medicaid could help the state meet costs it will already have to pay. Also, under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in the first years of the program.
But Republicans, including Berger, have said they worry that federal government would not keep up the same level of support and the state would get stuck with a big bill down the road. They also point out that North Carolina has trouble managing its current Medicaid program.
That disagreement amounts to a policy argument. But there are at least three misleading statements in the petition's language.
"Please help me stop Obamacare in North Carolina:" The Affordable Care Act is federal law and will go into effect here regardless of what the legislature does. Requirements that people obtain health insurance or pay a tax will be in force, and the federal government will set up a health insurance exchange with or without state input.
"Government-forced insurance:" The act does not require people to buy insurance. It does require that those who don't obtain insurance pay a tax penalty.
"The government turning our health records over to the IRS:" The most generous reading of this statement is that Berger is saying the IRS will collect records regarding health insurance, which is true. But the broader suggestion seems to be that the IRS will be combing through your personal medical files.
As FactCheck.org, a project of the nonpartisan Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, notes, the IRS will have to hire new agents to process tax forms as a result of the law. But it is false, FactCheck says, to people will have to disclose personal health information.