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Today's question: What can be done to prevent health care misinformation?

Friday, August 28, 2009 | 12:04 p.m. CDT; updated 11:09 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009

COLUMBIA — The debate over health care legislation has been raging on for some time now, but there's still lots of misinformation floating around. Whether it's coming from politicians, the media or either party, many people have expressed concerns with the information (or lack thereof) they're receiving.

At a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Jefferson City, Sen. Claire McCaskill tried to dispel rumors about health care legislation. Two of those rumors regarded "death panels" and whether abortion would be covered. The senator explained that legally (barring an amendment), the federal government cannot fund abortions, and the concept of a "death panel" actually originated from the idea of end-of-life plans, which would give families the ability to formulate a plan in the case that someone would become incapable of making life or death medical decisions .

Other items of confusion, though, were often harder to clarify. Many attendants of the forum acknowledged there was misinformation given on a daily basis, but their opinions on where the misinformation originated heavily differed, ranging from politicians to factions on either end of the political spectrum.

The fact that there are multiple conceptions of "health care reform" right now — there are three versions in the House, one from the Senate and another forming in a Senate committee — has contributed to the confusion. McCaskill spoke from reading the current Senate version and also referenced the more than 1,000 page compilation of the three House bills — HR 3200. 

Media organizations have implemented more explanatory news features to break down this complicated issue. Two helpful resources are FactCheck.org and the St. Petersburg Times' Politifact.

Even so, many questions remain about the legislation, and McCaskill said town hall meetings can, in part, serve as a way to educate the public. Many people who attended the forum Wednesday, though, said there needs to be more done.

What can be done to educate the public about health care legislation and prevent misinformation from spreading?


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