FACT CHECK: Health Care Reform Debate

Both sides in the health care debate are fighting hard to get their message out and win public support. To that end, they've launched an advertising blitz and so far, supporters of reform are outspending opponents 2-to-1.

"If all you knew is what you see on TV, you would not have a clue of what's going on," said Brooks Jackson, director of FactCheck.org.

An examination of some of the ads would make one think we were in the middle of a presidential campaign.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today launched a multimillion-dollar campaign in 21 states criticizing the House of Representatives' health care reform bill. The ad says there will be "big tax increases, even on health benefits."

President Obama
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The House bill would raise taxes, though only on households earning more than $350,000 annually.

But the ad's claim that health benefits would be taxed? Not so fast. In the Senate there's an idea to tax only the most generous benefits, but that's not in any legislation yet.

Another ad from a conservative seniors advocacy group, the 60 Plus Association, plays on the fears of seniors by claiming that the Democrats' health care reform plans will mean cuts to Medicare.

VIDEO: Obama: Health Care Critics Creating Boogeymen That Arent Real
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"For seniors it will mean long waits for care, cuts to MRIs, CAT scans and other vital tests," the ad says.

The House bill does include cuts to Medicare spending, which is where this critique comes from, but the cuts are in payments to service providers. That will not necessarily lead to cuts in Medicare benefits for seniors.

"Any time somebody talks about finding savings in Medicare costs or holding down the very rapid growth costs, they get accused of cutting benefits," Jackson said. "But it's really misleading. You can't really show that there are going to be cuts in benefits."

Some ads are scary, but completely inaccurate. Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a Republican-funded group, recently ran ads featuring a woman who said she "survived a brain tumor but if I'd relied on my government for health care, I'd be dead."

The woman featured in the ad, Canadian Shona Holmes, claimed her country's single-payer health care system, which covers all Canadian citizens, made her wait six months to be treated.

Holmes traveled to the United States to get treatment, but she never had a life-threatening brain tumor.

Health Care Reform Plan Backers Hit the Airwaves

Backers of the reform plans are also hard at work on ads. A small business coalition and a teachers union started running an ad today that says, in part, "There's a bill in Congress that will lower health care costs for families and businesses. That's what we need. Now."

But the facts aren't clear on those claims.

Lower health care costs for families is certainly one of the goals of reform. Proponents of the bill say creating a public plan to compete with private insurance will reduce premiums for all, but it's unclear if that will actually happen.

And as for lower costs for businesses, that depends on their payroll. In the House bill, if it's more than $250,000, the company has to help employees pay for health insurance.

"If you mandate businesses to buy insurance for employees that don't have it now, that's a big expense," says Jackson.

Many of the ads supporting the current Democratic plans make sweeping promises, such as one ad being aired by the Democratic National Committee.

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