WASHINGTON - For four years, we've witnessed a non-stop political donnybrook over Obamacare.
Now rhetoric has again reached a fever pitch since the botched October 1 launch of the new insurance exchanges at the heart of President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.
While Obama and Democrats scramble to reassure supporters and a skeptical nation that the dysfunctional Obamacare website can be fixed and the reforms will work, Republican opponents seize every opportunity to attack the 2010 Affordable Care Act they consider to be big government run amok.
Not surprisingly, such partisan back-and-forth has generated persistent myths about Obamacare that foment confusion, if not outright ignorance, about the reforms. In other cases, both sides try to quickly exploit newer issues.
Here is an attempt to debunk some of them:
1. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan
Let's start with the obvious -- Obama's oft-repeated pledge in selling the reforms that they wouldn't require people to change health coverage or doctors.
While the administration depends on a technicality to explain what Obama meant -- he was referring only to individually owned policies already in place back in March 2010 when the Affordable Care Act became law -- it was misleading when he started saying it back in 2008 and definitely is false today.
Yes, anyone with an individual policy dating back more than three years can keep it, as long as it hasn't been changed by the insurance company.
However, that is unlikely in the volatile individual market that comprises about 5% of Americans, a relatively small group compared to the 80% who get coverage through their jobs or government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Instead, at least 1 million individual policy holders have received letters from their insurers in recent months informing them that their plans are being discontinued at the end of the year or changed to cost more. The reason cited is added benefits required by Obamacare.
"The fact that the president sold it on a basis that was not true has undermined the foundation of his second term," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who lost to Obama in last year's presidential election, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Obama aides argue the President kept his word by including a "grandfather" provision that allowed people to keep their plans from before the health care law was passed, as long as the policies hadn't been changed.
At the same time, administration officials contend most policies no longer eligible for the "grandfather" provision -- and therefore being canceled by insurers -- offered substandard coverage, leaving people at risk of bankruptcy for hospitalization or other major medical needs.
The goal of the reforms was affordable, effective coverage for millions of uninsured or underinsured Americans, Obama aides say, calling that a more important outcome and pledge by the president.
"If the president were to allow people to have those plans be downgraded, or insurance companies to keep selling bare-bones plans," top Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, "... he'd be violating (an) even more important promise to the American people, that everyone would have a guarantee to access of quality affordable health insurance."
2. Everyone's health insurance costs will rise because of Obamacare
Republicans regularly declare that the end result of Obamacare will be higher health insurance costs for all.
If that happened, it would continue what was going on before Obamacare, when skyrocketing health care costs put effective insurance coverage out of reach for millions of Americans.
Obamacare requires virtually everyone to have health insurance, which would create large markets of previously uninsured or underinsured people to stimulate competition and presumably hold down prices.
That means some will pay more than before, such as healthier young people now required by the Affordable Care Act to have coverage, and some will pay less.
Under the reforms, some people who make too much to be eligible for Medicaid coverage but not enough to afford high-quality plans can get government subsidies in the form of tax credits to ease the burden.
Ezekiel Emanuel, an Obamacare architect from the University of Pennsylvania, told Fox News Sunday that the reforms were based on the concept of shared responsibility.
"We all share in the costs so that everyone can get it," he said, adding that if people don't have coverage and need health care, "they transfer those costs to the rest of us. That's the whole point of part of Obamacare, to eliminate this cost shifting."
3. Write me
In recent weeks, as the extent of problems with the Obamacare website became known, the President and his aides sought to reassure the public by noting other options to enroll, including paper applications they could file by mail to avoid the dysfunctional online option.
However, notes from so-called War Room meetings of administration officials