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Holy comic book, Batman! Health reform is like the Riddler!

Comic books are simple, while healthcare policy is complex. That reality was illustrated by the recent release of a new graphic novel “Health Care Reform: What is it, why it is necessary and how it works.”

Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a consultant to the Obama administration when congressional Democrats were writing the measure, provided the written content for the comic book, the idea for which Modern Healthcare wrote about early last year. The purpose of the illustrated account, he said at a Tuesday event at the liberal Center for American Progress previewing it, was to counter the many inaccuracies about the law in an “accessible” format.

“Here is a rare situation for—what I consider myself—objective experts to actually use facts to make the case, where you don't have to spin facts a certain way. There are objective facts out there that once people hear them they like this law better,” he said.

But in between its depictions of the healthcare industry as a mouth-drooling ogre the comic appears to have missed some of the facts it sought to bring to the public discussion of the law.

In addition to broad overstatements, such as referencing the law's basis in a “successful” reform in Massachusetts (Gruber acknowledged that reform was unsuccessful in containing healthcare costs), the modern pamphlet contains several demonstrably false statements. For example, it claims the law “will allow those who are happy with their insurance to keep their plans.” In fact, the law's own supporters acknowledge that millions of Americans will lose their existing coverage when their employers cease to provide it for various reasons stemming from the law. The only unsettled question is to what extent this will happen.

Additionally, the comic claims “the ACA makes affordable healthcare a reality for all Americans.” On the contrary, the Congressional Budget Office concluded the law will leave 23 million non-elderly resident uninsured.

The comic avoids bold overstatements in some areas. It does accurately highlight some positive aspects of the law. But, apparently, a comic is not the best place to convey a complex subject's many nuances.

Follow Rich Daly on Twitter @MHRDaly.

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