When health policy experts, journalists and those in the health care system gathered at the National Press Club this week to discuss the facts and fiction behind health care reform, they glossed over one key issue, and dismissed three others that people at town halls across the country keep bringing up.

First the issue the Press Club event deemphasized: cost. Many voters (55 percent) say they’re more worried Congress will spend too much money and add to the federal deficit with health reform than they are that Congress won’t pass reform system, according to a new study released by Quinnipiac University.

Worse, when many in the press, do address some of the other concerns Americans have about Obamacare (concerns that the Obama-approved health care reform will infringe on individuals’ freedom, allow for illegal immigrants to receive health benefits and fund abortion services with taxpayer dollars) they are unquestionably dismissive. Commenting on a recent NBC poll, MSNBC‘s Mark Murray asserts:

Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress.

President Barack Obama brought up these same concerns in an online health care forum with his advocacy group, Organizing for America. “Now, c’mon,” he told a cheering crowd of liberal community organizers. “We can have a real debate because health care is hard and there are some legitimate issues out there to be worked through. But we have to cut through the noise and misinformation.”

But the President, MSNBC’s “nonpartisan fact-checkers,” and other policy experts don’t seem to understand the facts.

The Heritage Foundation has shown why Americans should be asking their representatives about these issues:

  • Taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants: The House bill, as currently structured, does not offer clear guidelines to ensure that illegal immigrants cannot access taxpayer-funded health care benefits. An amendment to safeguard so only U.S. citizens could access federal health care benefits failed on a straight party-line vote.
  • Government takeover of health care system: Whether it’s a public health insurance plan, government-run cartel (which is being dubbed a “co-op”), individual mandate or employer mandate, the provisions in the health bills being pushed by the Obama administration call for more government regulation and intrusion in the American health care system. Even the mainstream media is calling President Obama to task for his own “misinformation” — that if you like your health insurance you can keep it if a public plan is introduced in the private insurance market. The Lewin Group found an estimated 56 percent of Americans with employer-based coverage would lose their current insurance under the House bill.
  • Funding abortions with taxpayer dollars: This concern has been raised in all three House committees and the Senate HELP committee. Based on the passage of an amendment to require at least one insurance plan to cover abortion each geographical region and the failure of several amendments to prohibit federal funds for abortion services, taxpayers could end up financing abortion.

“A serious health reform effort warrants a serious discussion,” Health Affairs Editor Susan Dentzer said at the start of the press club event. She’s absolutely right.

Americans should have the opportunity to voice their concerns (in a civilized tone) at the town halls this month and actually be heard by their representatives. Lawmakers also should deliberate this proposed health care overhaul in a civil and serious way that doesn’t include tactics like reconciliation to ram through health reform that many Americans don’t want.