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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/21/2011

A judge's letter on health care and an email gone viral

By Glenn Kessler

"YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LIKE THIS: ObamaCare Highlighted by Page Number ...All of the above should give you the point blank ammo you need to support your opposition to Obamacare. Please send this information on to all of your email contacts."
--excerpts from an email zooming around the United States


Zygmunt Plater, a professor at Boston College Law School, sent The Fact Checker a copy of the above email, which purports to be an analysis of the new health care law by a judge, complete with page citations. Plater's brother, Marek, had sent him a copy of the email, asking if it could be verified, after receiving it Wednesday from a senior official at the company where he works. Under the subject heading of "Read and Heed," the official sent the email to company employees with the notation, "We are now officially out of control." There's some pretty scary stuff in here: cancer care will be rationed according to age, the government would have "real-time access" to an individual's bank accounts, the government will set all doctor's fees, and so forth. So what's truth?

The Facts

Just because it is in an email--or on the Internet--does not make it true, especially when it is woefully out of date.

There is indeed a former county judge named David Kithil who lives in Marble Falls, Texas, which is about 50 miles northeast of Austin. In August, 2009, he wrote a letter to the River Cities Tribune, a local newspaper with a circulation of under 5,000, detailing his objections to one of the health care bills then pending in the House of Representatives--H.R. 3200.

As a former judge of Burnet County, Texas, Kithil is not a health care expert--and congressional language can be obtuse. His analysis is often debatable. The assertion of "real-time access" to bank accounts appears to be referring to a benign section allowing electronic funds transfers. The claim about doctors' fees refers to boilerplate saying the government will not pay less than rates set under Medicare. Similarly, the bill does not ration cancer care, but allows for a study of whether specialty hospitals are charging more for the same service as general hospitals--and then would actually boost payments to general hospitals.

But in any case, he was analyzing a bill that had not yet passed the House. The language was changed before final House passage in November, 2009. Then the Senate in December passed its own, more conservative version of a health care overhaul. By March, 2010, the House accepted much of the Senate bill, with some adjustments. While the email refers to the dangers of so-called "Obamacare," Kithil's letter has little to do with the final version of the legislation--which Kithil readily acknowledges.

"What I wrote about was a bill that never became law," Kithil said in a telephone interview Thursday. He said he has not had an opportunity to go through the final bill, but knows that some of the items that had concerned him were not enacted into law.

But the letter is certainly an email and Internet sensation. A Google search for "David Kithil and Obamacare" turns up nearly 2,000 examples of his letter posted on websites, blogs and forums--including as recently as this month. Kithil said that someone had called the newspaper and asked permission to put the letter in an email. The next thing he knew, he was getting calls from around the country. The calls have actually picked up in recent weeks, he said, adding: "It really shows the power of the Internet."

The Pinocchio Test

The lesson here is that facts need to come from reputable, credible sources, not an email chain. Kithil is in many ways an innocent bystander. He never claimed to be an expert and merely offered his opinion to the local newspaper. There are many critiques of the health care law, both from the left and right, which have been written by health care and legislative experts. That's where people need to go for more information.

Four Pinocchios--not to Kithil, but to anyone who keeps forwarding this email.

(About our rating scale).

Follow The Fact Checker on Twitter @GlennKesslerWP

By Glenn Kessler  | January 21, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  4 Pinocchios, Health  
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Next: Obama's 2010 State of the Union address--an accounting

Comments

Maybe Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity — the Pinocchio triumvirate — can help expose why this has gone viral. They can all interview the judge from Texas.

Posted by: bdunn1 | January 21, 2011 6:47 AM | Report abuse

This in an area where I think over the past couple of years the press has fallen down on the job. Haven't you seen all of the emails--thousands of them withe highly racist photos and jokes, lies about health care and other issues? The ones flowing into inboxes I know of are from power company excutives and professionals in leading fields. It is shameful and was an underpinning of November 2010.

Posted by: marjie01 | January 21, 2011 6:58 AM | Report abuse

This in an area where I think over the past couple of years the press has fallen down on the job. Haven't you seen all of the emails--thousands of them with highly racist photos and jokes, lies about health care and other issues? The ones flowing into inboxes I know of are from power company excutives and professionals in leading fields. It is shameful and was an underpinning of November 2010.

Posted by: marjie01 | January 21, 2011 6:59 AM | Report abuse

So, according to fact checker, the e-mail is not true, and if it is true, it's out of date. I find it interesting that a "fact checker" would first accuse the author of having less knowledge about the subject of the bill than of those who wrote it. If You cant assume that a "judge" knows the law (by implication), then why would we think that Senators and Representatives do? The truth of the matter is that what the "fact checker" considers to be "obtuse language" that Congress uses actually works its way into the language of all legislation. If a Boston law professor couldn't even verify an email, what chance does anyone have of interpreting more than 1,700 pages of legislation until the story actually plays out? One only has to recall that the author of the 14th amendment announced that the word "all" did not apply to babies born to non-citizens while those individuals were in transit in the U.S. and then passed the wording anyway. If we can't agree ahead of time what the word "all" means, how can we agree ahead of time what some 40,000 words mean?

Posted by: wantingbalance | January 21, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Balance, the issue is agreeing what so-called "Obamacare" means. A sensible person would say that applying dubious analysis to language that isn't even in the bill doesn't help us come to that agreement. Neither does wandering off the subject into semantic gibberish.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | January 21, 2011 8:07 AM | Report abuse

No wantingbalance, it's that not only is it an analysis of a bill that didn't become law, the analysis of that bill is at times faulty (e.g., a proposed study of costs associated with cancer treatment by varying types of facilities is not the same as rationing care) and at other times plays fast and loose with the terminology (e.g., allowing for the automated transfer of funds is much narrower than real-time access to bank accounts implies.) Finally, verifying an email and interpreting a law are also two very different things that shouldn't be compared.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 21, 2011 8:30 AM | Report abuse

If GOP partisans will believe anything they read.... why would you ever write the truth?

Posted by: baldinho | January 21, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

So wantingbalance, a county judge should know all about all the different types of laws. In whatever field you work in, do you know everything about it? I seriously doubt it. If lawyers specialize in crimial law, or civil law, or patent law, then clearly just being a "judge" does not mean that one knows all the law. In fact, it seems far more likely that a "county judge" would be dealing with criminal law, or maybe civil law. In either case, they would be dealing with people breaking the law- not the meaning of most of the laws.

What you're suggesting is that he's a judge, and thus inherently knows more about the law than others. Well I work in patent law(as a patent examiner). That doesn't mean I know more about criminal law than others. I seriously doubt as a county judge, he dealt much with federal law- since that gets prosecuted in front of federal judges.

And why shouldn't the author have less knowledge of the bill than those who wrote it? Yes, he's a judge and deals with the law, but they're legislators and MAKE the law. Moreover, they deal with all sorts of law, from medical to civil, while he almost certainly deals with one type of law.

And it never said the "Boston law professor" couldn't verify the facts in the e-mail. Maybe he did realize it wasn't correct, and wanted to get the info out to everyone reading the e-mail. After all, if he just told his brother it was wrong, that didn't help all the other people getting the e-mail and thinking it wa correct. Or maybe he didn't want to bother. Don't go assigning your opinions to someone else. Just because you wouldn't be able to understand the law to figure out whether the e-mail was true doesn't mean someone else wouldn't be able to.

Posted by: barbaramusser | January 21, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

People worry about the craziest things. Banks accounts? You have no expectation of privacy as to bank accounts anyway. That's already settled caselaw. The government can already access your accounts.

Posted by: nsu1203 | January 21, 2011 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Despite what Nancy Pelosi said, most don't know what was in the bill AFTER it was passed. They don't know how much it was changed by the reconciliation bill after IT was passed.

BTW, anyone have a source for the CBO scoring of the reconcilliation bill (if there was one)?

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | January 21, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

kitchendragon, seems to me the obvious answer would be cbo.gov. Also, who do you mean by "most?" Most constituents? Most Senators? Most Congressmen? Most high-school drop-outs? If a congressperson didn't read a bill before voting on it, that jurisdiction has got some hefty problems (that aren't either N. Pelosi's fault or responsibility) to haul on out to the curb.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 21, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

@Balance wrote:One only has to recall that the author of the 14th amendment announced that the word "all" did not apply to babies born to non-citizens while those individuals were in transit in the U.S. and then passed the wording anyway.
___________________________________________

Ok unbalanced the author of the 14th did not say that but meant that all born in...is there by a citizen of the USA. I bet somewhere in your lineage there was a non citizen who came here without proper paper work and became the *all* thus giving you status to proclaim citizenship.

Posted by: Realistic5 | January 21, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

There will never be a lack of stupid people who will pass this e-mail around forever. Not surprised the author is from Texas. "Conservatives" here are irrationally gullible.

Posted by: lddoyle2002 | January 21, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"As a former judge of Burnet County, Texas, Kithil is not a health care expert--and congressional language can be obtuse."

It's sad that the allegation that a judge can't understand Congressional legislation is a throwaway point. We should be demanding legislative language written in plain English.

Posted by: FishBulb | January 21, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Are you so bored that you need to debunk an email forward? Do you have nothing better to do with your time?

Let's just agree that any text that you acquire by means of a forwarded email chain letter is automatically worthy of 4 Pinocchios and move on with our lives.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | January 21, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I never see letters like this anymore. We have SPAM filters.

Posted by: Rudesan | January 21, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

BTW, anyone have a source for the CBO scoring of the reconcilliation bill (if there was one)?

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | January 21, 2011 9:23 AM | Report abuse

-----------------

http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=11355 (not hard to find if you bothered to look)

Posted by: dwaldman | January 21, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

So you discredited an email about the sausage that went into ObamaCare from over a year ago, from a guy who never planned to have it published in WaPo and exposed to your withering criticism.

Well, I guess that settles it: ObamaCare's gonna be great! Thanks Glenn!

Posted by: Jeff08 | January 21, 2011 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Jeff, while the email may have been written some time ago, it's making the rounds now. There's something to the thought that allowing these things to go by unchallenged encourages others to view them as facts.

Besides, surely you *must* know the health care law is currently under fire, no?

Posted by: LostInThought | January 21, 2011 2:43 PM | Report abuse


LostinThought, this is the first I've seen of it, but by all means, we must valiantly attack any sort of criticism of ObamaCare.

As for the laughable claims its proponents make, like "It'll save money!", just give those a pass. After all, there's no chance a government takeover of one sixth of the economy could turn into a massively wasteful boondoggle. The CBO says so!

Posted by: Jeff08 | January 21, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Jeff, you're just being silly. Long week? It's not criticism about Obamacare, it's a twisting of a draft (!!) so circuitious that it no longer resembles anything like the truth. Like 'government takeover.'

Oy.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 21, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Whenever someone uses the made up term "Obamacare" they are acknowledging their total lack of intellectual honesty. If these people use totally made up words just to describe the bill then you sure know that their criticisms are just as factless.

Posted by: buffysummers | January 21, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

why is this news? Gee, a "conservative" has twisted and spun the facts? Must be the first time this ever happened. They can't speak without spinning, but the saddest part of all is that they do it because they know the massive hordes of mindless sheep will buy it all, because they prefer the alternate version of reality the GOP provides. What else is new?

Posted by: red2million | January 21, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

the language quoted in the article isn't that obtuse, the author is being kind to the judge. there's no way to twist what he cites from the legislation into what he characterized it as. you don't need to be a health care expert to realize that eletronic funds transfer isn't access to your account. and if you don't know enough about health care to understand the rest of it, you shouldn't make stuff up.

Posted by: JoeT1 | January 21, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

FYI--it wasn't from a judge, it was from a former COUNTY judge. Next, sitting judges are not allowed to send stuff like this. Finally, COUNTY judges are not required to be lawyers in Texas and a search of the Texas Bar website for this gentleman's last name indicates he isn't.

Posted by: texaslawyer | January 21, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

So what is being said is that if it is printed in WaPo - then it must be true.

C'mon, give me a break. WaPo is just a valid as any viral email.

Posted by: LarryinMD | January 21, 2011 7:57 PM | Report abuse

As for the laughable claims its proponents make, like "It'll save money!", just give those a pass. After all, there's no chance a government takeover of one sixth of the economy could turn into a massively wasteful boondoggle. The CBO says so!

Posted by: Jeff08 | January 21, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Jeff08, can you explain to me how the healthcare law represents "a government takeover of one sixth of the economy?" Yes, healthcare is about 1/6th of the US economy, which is a problem in itself that needs to be reined in, which is one reason the healthcare law exists. However, what is "government control?" Does the law put hospitals, drug companies, HMOs, device makers etc under government ownership or even significant influence? It does nothing of the sort, though it sure riles up the dim when you assert that such "control" has come to pass. As for "government bureaucrats" coming between you and your physician, I welcome someone over whom I have some control as a citizen and voter overseeing healthcare rather than a corporate bureaucrat whose only loyalty is to the bottom line and his CEO's compensation.
If you study how we got to the current law, you'd find that almost everything in it was proposed by Republicans during the 1970s and 1980s. It's hardly "socialist."
One last point, the CBO says that the new law will make savings. Of course, despite the CBO being non-partisan the Boehners of the world have dismissed that finding and prefer instead to babble about it being "job killing." For the last 20 years the Republicans have doen the bidding of the healthcare industry, and till now had been very successful in frustrating the will of the American people. Finally we have started to address the healthcaare crisis (and its fiscal consequences).

Posted by: gratianus | January 21, 2011 8:23 PM | Report abuse

So, this misleading email is a big problem, but the steady stream of slanted reporting by the mainstream media is OK?

Posted by: Chippewa | January 21, 2011 9:12 PM | Report abuse

That's an interesting lesson you've drawn from all of this, Chip.

Posted by: Bob-S | January 21, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't the fact checker check in on whether health care reform actually reformed the cost of health care?

Or is that just too difficult?

Posted by: Benson | January 21, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

So the judge (well he is a texan after all) can't understand that "congressional" language. What language would that be? I thought we spoke english and our bills were written in that language. If the judge can't understand it and the congress can't read it why the h... would it pass? Any bill that is passed should be no more than 50 pages and in language that the average Joe can understand. Who are these nitwits anyway? If you can't say it in 50 pages become a novelist not a lawmaker.

Posted by: LadyChurchill | January 22, 2011 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Fact Checker: True

The Obama Administration has quietly granted even more waivers to the new federal health reform law which now includes hundreds of companies, unions and certain religions while providing exemption status to millions of individuals.

“If you’re a friend of the administration, you get a waiver, and it will cut your costs dramatically,” Gohmert said. “If you’re not a friend, you don’t get the waiver. You won’t compete with the friends of Obama. You’ll go out of business. Government shouldn’t have that kind of power."

Posted by: hunter340 | January 22, 2011 5:02 AM | Report abuse

Why fact check an old e-mail that came out BEFORE the final bill? No one in congress read either bills!! The dems passed it without knowing what was in it! That is an afront to our democracy! Nancy Pelosi and Reid, along with the dems who voted for it, should be impeached. This was an act against We the People. Obamascare scam is a horror! Hopefully, it will be appealed and replaced.

Posted by: annnort | January 22, 2011 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Why can't/doesn't the post publish the actual health care bill and a layman's interpretation so there won't be so many layers of obtuse interpretation? Not a sermon, just a thought!!!

Posted by: DontGetIt | January 22, 2011 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Here is an example of the "Big Lie"

Hayworth's Statement on Health Care Law Repeal:
"We all honor the goals of the Affordable Care Act but this law increases spending, raises taxes, and destroys jobs."

Sounds like a "big lie" to me without any facts being presented.

Here are some other facts concerning Ms. Hayworth's campaign receipts according to Map Light (http://maplight.org/us-congress/legislator/1460-nan-hayworth) that seems to explain things better:

Interest Contributions

Health Professionals $135,300
Securities & Investment $109,833
Health Services/HMOs $96,300
Lawyers/Law Firms $59,801
Misc Finance $42,616
Real Estate $42,450
Misc Health $29,100
Business Services $18,400
Hospitals/Nursing Homes $18,160
Accountants $14,700

Posted by: rryder1 | January 22, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse


Fact Checker: True

The Obama Administration has quietly granted even more waivers to the new federal health reform law which now includes hundreds of companies, unions and certain religions while providing exemption status to millions of individuals.

“If you’re a friend of the administration, you get a waiver, and it will cut your costs dramatically,” Gohmert said. “If you’re not a friend, you don’t get the waiver. You won’t compete with the friends of Obama. You’ll go out of business. Government shouldn’t have that kind of power."

Posted by: Benson | January 22, 2011 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Righties are easily manipulated.
But even after they realized they've been duped, they return to the same lying sources - Fox & Frightwing radio.

Posted by: angie12106 | January 22, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

annort wrote>>>The dems passed it without knowing what was in it!

Another rightwing lie.

Posted by: angie12106 | January 22, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Many of the arguments for health care repeal are based on lies. The Republicans call it a job killer basing their charge on a massive distortortion of old Congressional Budget Office numbers. At the same time, they claim the CBO is entitled to be wrong when the CBO says repeal will add billions to the deficit.

I check PolitiFact.com at least once each day. They evaluate claims from both sides and give a more balanced perspective on what people are claiming.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | January 22, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

There are plenty of reliable sources of information on the Web. One of the best for health care issues is the Kaiser Family Foundation, and they cover health care reform at http://healthreform.kff.org/
.

Posted by: dricks | January 22, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

There are plenty of reliable sources of information on the Web. One of the best for health care issues is the Kaiser Family Foundation, and they cover health care reform at http://healthreform.kff.org/
.

Posted by: dricks | January 22, 2011 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Dear Fact Checker,

Marble Falls is northwest of Austin, not northeast.

Posted by: AndrewRe | January 23, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

There are plenty of places that explain the PPACA in layman's terms and in a nonpartisan way. You just have to look for it.

Yes, CBO scoring is out there. Again, not hard to find.

This email is irrelevant for so many reasons. It's about a law that didn't even exist yet. Not to mention that a state court judge knows as much about federal law as the average layperson.

Posted by: chi-town | January 23, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Bottom line: I don't trust the Left to tie their own shoes, so anything they legislate, especially a 2,500 page bill, is HIGHLY suspect.

I say scrap it, have some bi-partisan talks, then craft something we all can understand, afford, and live with.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | January 23, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

It's sad that the allegation that a judge can't understand Congressional legislation is a throwaway point. We should be demanding legislative language written in plain English.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Since when do we want our Congress "dumbed down"? Why not educate yourself and learn legislative language so that you can understand it?

This continually dumbing down of our country is of no good to anyone.

Posted by: massmedia77 | January 23, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

"So, this misleading email is a big problem, but the steady stream of slanted reporting by the mainstream media is OK?"

Chippewa, I do hope you're including Fox News in this vague accusation.

Posted by: windycityward | January 24, 2011 3:29 AM | Report abuse

EVERYONE in Congress should be REQUIRED to live under each and every rule that the "rest of us" are required to live under. No member of Congress should be exempt from what is in this health careless bill. The problem is NOT health insurance. The problem is the cost of health care. $45 for a pill? That's ridiculous!! Pharmaceutical companies and companies that supply medical supplies should be audited and a fair price for medical supplies and services should be established. Anyone working an 8 hour day, 5 days a week in the USA should be able to pay for health care out of their own pockets. Insurance companies are nothing more than crooks. We've allowed them to take over our health care industry. It's like paying a thug to pass down your own street each day to go to your own home. You have to pay him to get by safely...otherwise he won't let you pass. Bean counters should have NO SAY in what goes on between YOU and your doctor! The costs of health care have risen in exact porportion to the power that insurance companies have been given to interfere in our lives and OUR medical decisions. Get rid of them and send them back to the days when they were used only for emergencies!

Posted by: JB_Parrothead | January 24, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

The whole point of chain e-mail is that its contents have been manipulated and/or are inaccurate one way or another so that it fans the flames of fear, emotion and ignorance.

Currently, the ignorant who take these e-mails at face value only want to see one thing: a guilt-by-association link to Obama. Whatever the e-mail says after that is irrelevant. Suffice to say, this happens every political cycle depending on whoever the de facto political party is or whoever the President-du-jour is.

I trash all chain e-mails, regardless of whether they are written about the supposed color of the sky, Democrats, Republicans, Mother Theresa, Luke Skywalker or Perry the Platypus. Sometimes I read them for amusement sake - for my highly bigoted WWII veteran grandfather sends me stuff all the time.

People should do their own due diligence instead of relying on poisonous, divisive chain mail.

Posted by: sloppyawn | January 24, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

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