For the first time in the history of our nation, the President of the United States is being attacked for speaking to children in our schools. He is being accused of trying to indoctrinate kids with socialist ideals and saying things that might contradict what their parents are teaching them. I hope he does. Because the ideals that these children must be learning from those parents is totally inconsistent with our nation’s way of life. To suggest, so that children can hear, that the President is an evil man with an unAmerican agenda, is the essence of fascism. The Republican Party has been co-opted by extremists who have intimidated moderates and tried to undermine the country’s confidence in its government. With each day that passes, they go a step closer to treason. Their words and actions have been a far greater threat to our democracy than any 1950’s communist conspiracy ever was. At bottom of this pit of seething hatred is a core of bigotry that seeks to undo all of the progress this country has made over the last half century.
How do you combat this kind of bellicose prejudice without slipping into the same mire of angry name-calling and unproductive vitriole? We’re getting closer and closer to the point where it doesn’t really matter. The sad fact is that a significant percentage of our population, either through ignorance, or a history of racial prejudice, would rather bring down the whole country before they would allow a black president to have any kind of political victory. These people cluster in their blogs of like-minded zealots, feeding each other rumors and half-truths, then re-enforcing their validity. There is absolutely zero willingness to even consider an opposing view. It is horrifying to see.
This information has been derived from various websites, such as AARP.com, PoliticFact,com and FactCheck.org, in addition to the several public statements made by President Obama on the subject of health care reform. I’ve only relied on mass media information when it has cited specific sources, such as the recent study conducted at Emory University and various official statements by AARP.
Below are just a few of the most pervasive lies and fear tactics which have been spread by the insurance companies and various extremist groups:
1. Death Panels: This is so absurd, it barely warrants a response. The ‘end of life’ counseling item was added to the House bill by a Republican (Grassley) and it is something which has already existed in previous health care legislation. It simply means that meetings between a family and a doctor concerning important decisions, such as hospice care, would be covered. Section 1233 of the House bill would allow Medicare for the first time to cover patient-doctor consultations about end-of-life planning, including discussions about drawing up a living will or planning hospice treatment. Patients would, of course, seek out such advice on their own — they would not be required to. The provision would limit Medicare coverage to one consultation every five years. The only “death panels” we have now are the ones owned and operated by the private, for-profit insurance companies, which decide who will be covered and how much it will cost.
2. You don’t get eye care till you go blind: A curious claim by opponents of health care reform, since no proposal being considered mentions blindness, macular degeneration, or the word “sight”. Since the vast majority of people who suffer from macular degeneration are elderly white women, this claim has been an effective scare tactic and no doubt incited many seniors to scream at anybody who supported reform.
3. Socialized medicine: This is an oft-repeated yet totally unfounded claim, given that the government wouldn’t be taking over anything and that no plan currently being considered would put any doctors, nurses, technicians or therapists on the government payroll (not even the so-called “public option” does that). Genuine socialized medicine precludes any choices for the consumer, and that is obviously not the case with either of the reform bills being proposed. What we have right now is a form of corporate socialism (more accurately “corporate fascism”), where a handful of insurance company executives and non-physician actuaries make life-or-death decisions about who will be denied coverage and how high premiums will go. The only thing that the government would administer is the public option, which is only a small part of reform bills being proposed.
4. “I don’t want the government messin’ with my Medicare!” An amazing complaint, considering that Medicare is administered by the federal government, and that most seniors are extremely happy with their coverage. Medicare is in financial trouble, not because of government mismanagement, but because of sky-rocketing medical costs. Unless those costs are brought under control, Medicare will go into the red, taxes will go up and the deficit will continue to explode. It is important to note here that nearly 3/4’s of our annual deficit is driven by just three things: social security payments, military spending, and Medicare coverage. Given that fact, if you’re a genuine conservative, health care reform should be at the top of your “Things-to-Do” list. Under the House proposal, Medicare costs would be reduced, primarily by eliminating waste and fraud, and service to seniors would probably improve. Also, Medicare and Medicaid would be expanded, to accommodate the increasing numbers of seniors in the population. The Boomers.
5. Rationing of medical care for the elderly: There is no such provision in either of the bills currently being considered. In fact, Medicare would remain untouched. Of course, reducing health care costs across the board would ensure that Medicare avoids going into the red. This is yet another scare tactic employed by various anti-reform groups that has zero basis in fact. Americans will not face “rationing” in health care any more than they do now. While a public plan would not be able to cover all procedures, private insurance plans don’t either.
6. The public option will drive people away from private insurers. This is one of the more frequently repeated lies being spread around the internet. This scenario could only happen if private insurers refused to cut their operating costs, lower premiums, and become competitive– which is capitalism in action. Plenty of private companies compete with government-run entities. FedEx and UPS have done quite nicely despite the United States Postal Service. Also, there are many private universities that have flourished despite the less expensive and more ubiquitous state colleges and universities. In any case, the rates of pay to providers would be negotiated and not dictated by the public option. Given that, if private insurers still can’t compete with the public option, then they should probably close their doors anyway. The whole notion that a profit motive should dictate the quality of health care in the United States is immoral anyway. There are plenty of other industries where making a buck is perfectly acceptable. But we’re talking about people’s lives here and the fact that far too many hard-working Americans are going bankrupt every year because they can’t afford decent medical coverage or get coverage at any price because of a previous condition. The legislation in both the House and the Senate would actually prohibit many people with employer-based insurance from switching to the public option, even if they wanted to. The primary purpose of the public option is to provide coverage for people who would otherwise not be able to afford insurance. Period. People and blogs which state otherwise are simply using scare tactics. For every dollar spent on health care in the United States, 31¢ goes to administrative costs. And, of that 31¢, a significant portion is paid out in monumental bonuses to insurance company executives and media costs such as those that are being sustained by the massive disinformation campaign currently being waged by the insurance industry against reform. FACT: The CBO estimates the House bill would result in a net increase of 3 million Americans with employer-provided care.
7. I don’t want my tax dollars payin’ for any baby killin’! This is another hot button issue for conservatives and it was an obvious choice for those who wanted to derail any calm discussion of health care reform. Of course, there are no provisions in either of the bills being considered in Congress which call for or endorse federal funding of abortions-on-demand. This would be illegal anyway, because it is expressly forbidden by the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding for abortion care. Effective in 1977, this amendment, specifies what abortion services are covered under Medicaid. In September 1993, Congress rewrote the provision to include Medicaid funding for abortions in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, and the present version of the Hyde Amendment requires coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. Again, this was a Republican sponsored amendment which passed during a Democratic administration. Again, opponents of health care reform have taken some of the wording in the current reform proposals out of context, ignoring the fact that this issue is already covered in previous health care legislation– just like the so-called “death panels” issue. Most important of all, NOBODY has ever said anything about trying to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which would require an act of Congress. The likelihood of that ever happening is about zero. The fact is that health care reform proposals have to be neutral on this issue or they would risk being thrown out by the Supreme Court.
8. “I’m not payin’ for no wetback free health care!” Both reform bills being considered make it quite clear that this will not happen. Repeating over and over and over again that illegal immigrants would get free medical care under those bills does not make it a fact. It’s not. The quickest way to derail any kind of genuine reform is to start stacking other controversial and highly complex issues on top of it. That is exactly what right-wing anti-Obama groups and the insurance companies are trying to do. The handling of illegal immigration is a totally separate issue that will probably take years to work out. Sticking it and other controversial problems onto the issue of health care reform is a less than subtle way of just saying you don’t want reform of any kind. The only way that an undocumented alien can get insurance coverage under President Obama’s plan IS TO PAY FOR IT! Many already do. Finally, the Welfare Act of 1996 is a federal law which strictly forbids any illegal immigrant from obtaining a federally subsidized benefit or service of any kind. Any health care reform bill would be required to conform to that law.
9. “President Obama is tryin’ to sneak the government into taking over our health care.” Obama has always been for single-payer health care, or a ‘Medicare for all’ system. He’s never been secretive about that. He has also made it quite clear that he knows that a sudden shift to such a system would be too disruptive, in addition to being politically unfeasible. What is interesting in this debate is that those who are attacking the single-payer system are actually attacking something that would benefit them. They’re against it because someone has told them that it’s “socialized medicine” and that the federal government is incompetent and evil. They blame the financial woes of Medicare and Medicaid on the government, ignoring the fact that sky-rocketing medical costs are the real culprit. Shockingly enough, they trust the insurance company executives who are driven by an out of control profit motive more than they would trust the government, which has myriad checks and balances in place. It is more than a little amazing that some people would condemn this president for putting the right of their fellow citizens to have affordable health care ahead of the profiteering and greed of the insurance industry. The notion that the federal government is eternally incompetent and insidiously evil goes back to the Civil War, when some states chose to secede from the Union rather than emancipate their slaves. What we’re seeing now is a new group of bellicose bigots who are willing to attack anything this black president tries to do, even if it would benefit them and their families in the end. By some unfathomable logic, these people are proud of the fact that THE UNITED STATES IS THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE INDUSTRIALIZED WORLD WHICH DOES NOT OFFER ITS CITIZENS AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE.
There are so many liars out there who seem to be driven by something other than the facts about health care reform. Perhaps it’s anger that we have a black man sitting in the White House. As many commentators are saying now, this debate hasn’t been about health care reform for some time. It’s now about President Obama. That’s why we have people screaming in the faces of their elected representatives who are trying to dispel all the rumors and untruths.