From MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell and NBC's Domenico Montanaro
There were a lot of claims at yesterday's day-long health-care summit but which ones are fact and which are fiction?
ISSUE No. 1: Will premiums go up or down if health reform becomes law?
President Obama and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander could not agree on the facts. Here's what they said, in part:
ALEXANDER: "The CBO says the premiums will rise in the individual market as a result of the Senate bill."
OBAMA "It's not factually accurate. Here's what the Congressional Budget Office says. The costs for families for the same type of coverage as they're currently receiving would go down 14 to 20%."
There are elements of truth in what both said, but there's more to the story.
First, the non-partisan CBO did find that average premiums for people buying insurance premiums would be 10 to 13 percent higher in 2016.
But as president Obama pointed out those more expensive policies would cover more. As Obama said, "Yes I'm paying 10 to 13 percent more because instead of buying an apple, I'm getting an orange."
And half of the people would be getting substantial government subsidies to defray extra costs.
ISSUE No. 2: Reconciliation
Republican claim Democrats are going to unfairly jam the bill through in a partisan way.
Here's the disagreement:
Lamar Alexander said of reconciliation, "You can say that this process has been used before, and that would be right. But it's never been used for anything like this. It's not appropriate to use to write the rules for 17 percent of the economy."
Harry Reid: "I have not talked about doing reconciliation as the only way out of all this. Of course, it's not the only way out. But remember, since 1981, reconciliation has been used 21 times. Most of it's been used by Republicans for major things, like the Contract for America, Medicare reform, the tax cuts. So reconciliation isn't something that's never been done before."
So who's right?
First, for Sen. Reid to say he has not talked about doing reconciliation, that's just not true. Everyone's been talking about it, and Democrats may start the process next week.
Now, as to the Republican claim that this has "never" been used for something this big, that's not true.
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service put out a report on bills between 1981 and 2009, and found that reconciliation has been used 22 times, mostly by Republican-controlled Congress.'
It has, in fact, been used for major legislation like health insurance portability (COBRA), nursing home standards, expanding Medicare, welfare reform, and Bush's trillion-dollar-plus tax cuts. So Reid is right on that point.
It's also important to point out -- additionally -- that if Democrats use reconciliation, it wouldn't be for the ENTIRE bill, but for just parts of it. So, it wouldn't be accurate if opponents of health reform to say that a bill this large hasn't been passed via reconciliation, or to attach the same cost for the total bill to what potentially gets passed using reconciliation.
ISSUE No. 3: Who has polling on their side?
Both Republicans and Democrats claimed to have the polls on their side at yesterday's health-care summit.
MCCONNELL: "I think it is not irrelevant that the American people, if you average out all of the polls, are opposed to this bill by 55-37."
OBAMA: "When you poll people about the individual elements in these bills, they're all for them."
What's the truth? Who's right?
As usual the truth is COMPLICATED. Both are correct -- to a point.
McConnell is basically right that if you take an average of the polls and simply ask if you favor or oppose the health-care plans going through Congress, more people oppose than are in favor.
What we can tell you is that by the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, taken in late January, that more people -- 46 percent -- thought the president's health care plan was a BAD idea. And just 31 percent thought it was a good idea. Now, this has changed over time. Back in June of last year, was the last time more people thought it was a good idea than a bad one -- and that was right before all those summer town halls and rumors about death panels and pulling the plug on grandma.
And it's also true that people polled said that no one was doing a good job handling health care. In fact, more people said REPUBLICANS in Congress were doing a worse job handling health care than the president.
As far as what the president suggested, that Americans are in favor of some specific aspects of the plan, like eliminating pre-existing conditions, for example. For the most part, that's true.
ISSUE No. 4: McCain vs. Obama on CSPAN cameras
At one point, it felt like déjà vu with the 2008 election. John McCain sharply criticized the president for his failure to hold public health care negotiations.
MCCAIN: "Eight times you said that negotiations on health care reform would be conducted with the C-SPAN cameras. I'm glad more than a year later that they are here. Unfortunately, this product was not produced in that fashion. It was produced behind closed doors."
OBAMA: "John, we're not campaigning anymore. The election is over."
So, is McCain right? As we've reported previously, yes, it's true that several times in the 2008 campaign Obama vowed to hold open negotiations in reworking health care. But once in office, Democrats in the White House and Congress conducted negotiations, as usual, behind close doors. But, as we asked as the lead line in First Thoughts this morning, We learned that televising all congressional proceedings clearly isn't the solution to Washington's ills, huh?