Monday, August 10, 2009

Going Ballistic on Health Care Reform: In-fear-mation winning?

Is it health care reform with information, in-fear-mation, or in-fear nation?

Back in February, a few days after my 49th birthday, I read a conservative's post on health care reform and my blood boiled. I was not amused by the writer's fear-mongering and misinformation about a loss of choice in health care. People without health care or with bad health care already don't have choices.

This morning I heard my daughter, age 28, who has good health care through her job, fussing up a storm in the living room. Very unusual for her. I found out a few minutes later that she'd seen people on TV protesting changes to health care. (Not the CNN video you see in this post.)

"They have their health care. They don't want other people to have health care!" she shouted.

"How do you know the people you saw have health care?" I asked, still marveling that this quiet person seethed so.

"They're old and white!" she said.

I thought about this for a moment and then said, "You mean they probably have Medicare?"

"Yes," she said.

And then I chuckled. What would be the point of arguing with her about her perception that the protesters probably had Medicare or another form of health care? She was probably right. The people protesting, if not already on Medicare, then probably have healthcare through their jobs and have never had to face down an insurance company or pay a huge COBRA bill or go to the emergency room with chest pains, find out it was only heartburn, and get a $6,000 bill the following month because the insurance company refuses to pay, citing "pre-existing condition" after not even checking medical history.

I think I heard Bill Maher say something about a man shouting, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare" at one of what is becoming the "notorious" Town Hall Meetings. I wasn't sure if it was a Maher joke or true.

Turns out it happened:
At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance. (Health Care Realities, Op-Ed by Paul Krugman)
Krugman is right. People don't understand how health care works in this country. As a result, those opposed to health care reform can lie as often and however they choose, easily swaying "the haves" with fear that they will lose out to the "have nots."

If you don't believe they will resort to lying, then consider the anti-health-care-reform commercial that ran with the woman from Canada, Shona Holmes, claiming she had a brain tumor and couldn't get treatment under Canada's health plan. I disliked the commercial for its logic, the false implication that under our present system in America a woman with cancer would automatically be treated, and so was not surprised to find out Holmes's story was fishy.

Full disclosure, I am a have, but very unhappy paying $560 per month for health care, while realizing how easily I could be a "have not," while despite having I still must periodically answer questions about pre-existing conditions as the health insurance company looks for ways to drop me from the policy when it hasn't paid out to medical professionals on my half anywhere near the money I've paid into the system.

And look at where my money's going:
And in their efforts to avoid “medical losses,” the industry term for paying medical bills, insurers spend much of the money taken in through premiums not on medical treatment, but on “underwriting” — screening out people likely to make insurance claims. (Krugman at NYT)
So, I'm paying them $560 per month to tell me that they won't pay my medical bills. I think health insurance has become a scam, a gamble that gives policy holders a false sense of security.

I'm not sure the health care reform battle can be won with logical explanations of how health care in this country works or doesn't work, with thoughtful comparisons between health care here and health care in France or Great Britain. Fear is winning the minds of people who think they'll lose coverage while they ignore that people live the fear they express each day because they have no coverage. I also think that many of the people protesting think people without health insurance don't work when that's not true.

The health care bills as proposed need reworking, but it seems protesters have been convinced the country needs to do nothing. They seem to think that health care is fine as is and the only alternative is something worse.

Nevertheless, despite my suspicion that forthright information and education may not work on this topic and that most people protesting President Barack Obama's attempts to reform health care don't even know what's being proposed, I recommend the Kaiser Foundation's website, a side-by-side comparison of the major health care reform proposals. Perhaps someone will take a look who wants information rather than in-fear-mation.

Finally, and I know this is an emotional arguement: How is it that the party that enjoys being associated with being "pro-life" for the unborn keeps proving they are pro-death for those already living? How does this willingness to tell people who don't have health care to 'suck it up' compare with those family and Christian values Republicans like to claim they represent?


msladyDeborah said...


The woman from Canada bothers me a lot. The first time I saw that ad on television-I had a million questions that I wanted answered.

Unless she was carrying insurance how did she have the surgery done without some upfront understanding about the cost? I had a co-worker who had a turmor removed from her brain. Even with insurance she had close to twenty grand in bills to pay afterwards. If you are to believe the Canadian woman there's just no problem with this system.

During my unemployment period the coverage that was extended to me was was way too high. I couldn't afford it. And what really got the better of me was the deductable was a thousand dollars.

Vérité Parlant said...

The Canadian, Shona whats-her-face, has been busted. Her story is bogus. She didn't even have a life-threatening tumor. She had a vision problem. In my opinion, anybody who bought her story must've been living under a rock because it's well known having a tumor/cancer is one of the fastest ways to get kicked off private insurance here in the states. And unlike so many without insurance here, it seems she had the means to look to private care.

In essence, Shona Holmes was better off than Americans whose insurance companies refuse to pay for such surgeries and who don't have the means to pay on their own nor qualify for Medicaid because they earn more than the indigent. Her vision may have been jeopardized, which is nothing to take lightly, but eventually some medical professional would have seen her. In the states, if you don't have the money for private care and your insurance company denies you service, you may have to choose between loss of vision and bankruptcy. And considering how America operates, I don't believe that we will get to a point that people who have money to pay will ever be denied care.

I hear you MsD on high premiums. The system is so broken.

le0pard13 said...

Yes, our system is broken, and it is financially unsustainable. A recent article in the L.A. Times had a sobering analysis of our current health care woes:

A Canadian doctor diagnoses U.S. healthcare - L.A. Times

What's going on with the GOP attacks is the most irresponsible thing I've seen... yet. Even the business columnist of the Washington Post dished out sharp criticism of the GOP for this:

Steven Pearlstein: Republicans Propagating Falsehoods in Attacks on Health-Care Reform -

I'm coming to the conclusion that there are no adults left in the Republican Party. It is a calculated attempt at scaring away any real examination of the issues at hand. Meaning, they want NO change to the current system. And leaving it there just puts more Americans to greater risks, financially and health-wise.

Thanks for the post, Nordette.