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Saturday, the Senate passed its own healthcare reform bill, which will now go to Committee for melding with the House Bill into a single healthcare reform bill to be voted on by both houses of Congress. Just getting this far was a monumental task. It was passed in the House with only a single Republican vote, and in the Senate on a strict Party-line vote (39 Republicans voting “no”. George Voinovich did not vote. Apparently, returning home for his “30th-year-in-office” anniversary party was more important than providing healthcare reform to his constituents.) Opposition to healthcare reform has been fueled by misconceptions, paranoia and even outright lies… created by the healthcare industry, pushed by their lobbyists, and promoted by they loyal minions in the GOP that would pull the “plug on grandma” (if I may borrow their terminology) if it helped their corporate masters buy a beach house in New Jersey

Republican stupidity never ceases to amaze me. Conservatives actually seem to take pride in being stupid. George W Bush, and later, John McCain, literally boasted of how poor their grades were in school as if “ignorance” was some sort of badge of honor. And the Right’s new darling, Sarah Palin, is a former beauty-queen (which she lost to the one black contestant), turned sportscaster (which she quit), turned small town mayor (which she quit), turned small state Governor (which she quit), turned Vice Presidential candidate (which she lost to the one black contestant), is George W. Bush in high heels: the brains of Dubya with the conniving of Cheney all rolled into one. I thought I had seen the pinnacle of that love for all things stupid when they crowned her their queen, despite a series of embarrassing interviews in which she was incapable of answering the simplest of questions (“What newspapers do you read?”), all the while blinking out landing instructions to the mothership in Morse code.

Leaders of the Republican Party have learned how to harness that stupidity for their own personal gain while convincing their paranoid xenophobic followers to actively work against their own best interests. A number of myths and lies about healthcare reform have become so prevalent, they are actually believed by a plurality of Americans:

  1. Myth: The Public Option would be a “GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER” of the health care industry.
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    Truth: This one drives me nuts and I could almost do an entire column on this one point alone. Every Republican opposing healthcare reform does so by claiming, “I oppose this government takeover of health care.” Well, as much as I wish it were so, the government is NOT nationalizing the healthcare system like they have in Canada or Great Britain. ALL they are proposing is adding another life insurance company… this one run by the government, to compete against private insurance. And EVEN THAT may be asking too much (see petition link on left). Yet, somehow, they call this a “takeover”?

    The basis for this insipid lie is the ridiculous belief that a government option that competes with private insurers would be SO inexpensive that the private insurance companies, unable to compete, would eventually be driven out of business, leaving Americans with no choice other than the government insurance system. Besides not being true, seriously now, outside of the GOP and healthcare CEO’s, who’s REALLY worried about the insurance companies ability to profit off your misery?

    So the bill itself is not a direct “takeover”. They just BELIEVE that that is the natural eventual result… even if it takes 50 years to happen. But Republicans fear-monger that passage of a “public option” would “absolutely unquestionably” result in this happening within days/weeks/months of its passing, even though (as our petition clearly points out) there is a VERY good chance the final bill will DENY most Americans the right to even choose it.

    To make their argument even more insane (Yes They Can… get even crazier) while they argue The Public Option would be so cheap everyone will chose it over private insurance (putting private insurers out of business), it would simultaneously be so bad with its “rationing” and “death panels”, the quality of care would go down. How does Mercedes compete with Kia if (as they believe) no one is willing to pay more for better coverage? Why buy a Cadillac when you can buy a Yugo, right?

    Truth is, in EVERY country with a “public option” (most notably Japan, which the plan most closely resembles), they enjoy a thriving private insurance industry. Insurance companies in Japan don’t make $2Trillion in profit every year like they do in the U.S. (which explains why they are fighting this tooth & nail), but they DEFINITELY haven’t all been put out of business trying to compete with the government.

    (One side note: On Sunday’s “This Week with Steph-O“, guest wingnut Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) slipped up and claimed “the public option would LEAD TO a government takeover of health care” rather than declare the two synonymous. Apparently, Sen. Blackburn didn’t get the memo.) You won’t find her slip in the transcript as it was omitted under the guise of “(CROSSTALK)”.
     

  3. Myth: We need to pass a law that “allows insurance companies to sell policies across state lines.”
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    Truth: Republicans argue that one of the reasons insurance rates are so high is because we don’t “allow” insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, falsely suggesting that this is something the insurance companies want. In truth, there is no law “specifically” prohibiting the sale of health insurance across state lines. The McCarran-Ferguson Act passed by Congress in 1945 allows state law to regulate the business of insurance without interference from the federal government on the grounds that different states have different rules governing insurance. This prohibition gives them near monopolies in many states, and shields them from “interstate commerce” laws. There are many crimes that do not fall under Federal jurisdiction because they take place solely within the boundaries of a particular state.

    If we both live in the same state, and I cheat you out of a million dollars, only the State has jurisdiction and only the State can prosecute me. But if we live in different states, the Federal government can step in and prosecute me because it has jurisdiction over “interstate commerce”.

    As such, the insurance companies don’t want the law prohibiting the sale of health insurance across state lines repealed. Note that when Republicans controlled Congress (1994-2006), no one ever proposed lifting the ban because the insurance companies would have gone as ballistic then as they are today.

    A more correct phrasing would be for government to “repeal the law” and “FORCE” insurance companies to sell policies across state lines. But Republicans use the term “allow because it makes the insurance companies seem like the victim with the big bad government out to get them.

    So whenever you hear some Republican talk about “ALLOWING” insurance companies to “sell insurance across state lines”, you can call them on it.
     

  5. Myth: “We have the greatest healthcare system in the world!”
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    Truth: We have one of the best “Rescue Care” systems in the world. We also build some of the best yachts in the world too (thanks to John Amato for the metaphor). Premium Healthcare that no one can afford means no healthcare at all for millions of Americans. “Rescue Care” is just a tiny fraction of our day-to-day healthcare needs.

    And it bears repeating that the United States is 50th in life expectancy (78.11 years) and 33rd in infant mortality… two of the most reliable statistics in judging the quality of healthcare by country.

    ADDENDUM: NYT Columnist NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF wrote an excellent Op/Ed earlier this month on the topic of American Longevity & Mortality. Among the points he makes, this is particularly interesting:

    [T]here is one American health statistic that is strikingly above average: life expectancy for Americans who have already reached the age of 65. At that point, they can expect to live longer than the average in industrialized countries. That’s because Americans above age 65 actually have universal health care coverage: Medicare.

    (Hattip to The Grey Matter blog for the link.)

     

  7. Myth: Long waits. If everyone can go to the doctor for “free”, you will see “lines around the block” and wait times of days/weeks/months… even years. But, the fact is, if you can’t afford to see a doctor, your “wait time” is *forever*. If you walked up to any person and offered to pay their surgery free & clear if they’re just willing to wait a couple of months, how many people would say “No”? And recent examples of “lines around the block” of people waiting for the H1N1 vaccine are the result of CORPORATIONS unwilling to use additives that would stretch our stockpile of vaccine (like they do in England) because it would cut into profits. Those lines have NOTHING to do with government-run healthcare and EVERYTHING to do with privatized medicine and CORPORATE GREED.
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  9. Myth: Bureaucrats will come between you and your doctor. We have them now. It’s called “the insurance company”, and some idiot with a degree in accounting, not medicine, is deciding whether they’ll pay for your treatment.
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  11. Myth: “Death Panels”. We have those too. It’s called “the insurance board”, and when they deny your claim, that’s every bit the “death panel” as anything Sarah Palin ever dreamt up.
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  13. Myth: Only the poor can’t afford health insurance.
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    Truth: Over 60% of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills. And three-quarters of those people had heath insurance at the time. Providing low-cost insurance is not just a service for the poor.
     

  15. Myth: Illegal aliens will get free tax-payer funded healthcare.
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    Truth: Now, it has already been debunked nine ways to Sunday that “illegal aliens will not receive free heathcare”. I myself, wrote about the subject last September, so there is no point in rehashing that issue.

    But even more simply, THIS ISN’T NATIONALIZED HEATHCARE where anyone can just walk into a hospital and get treated for free. It’s AN INSURANCE PROGRAM, where members will pay premiums and be given an insurance card. No card, no coverage. Now, if some illegal alien wants to sign up for the public option and pay premiums like the rest of us, what does it matter if the patient is a citizen or not? Meanwhile, RIGHT NOW, illegal aliens can & do receive “free” healthcare by going to the emergency room… which Republicans think we ALL should do for “last-resort” healthcare.

 

A little over a year ago, the website “WebMD” posted a study claiming that cancer survival rates in the U.S. were higher than in Canada or the U.K.. Naturally, as you might expect, armed with only half the story, Republicans have been spreading this statistic (but, conveniently, NOT the actual report itself) as “PROOF” that the American healthcare system is superior to the “socialized medicine” of those other two countries.

But, if you follow the link to the report in question, it lists America along side Japan (which has the public option) and France (with probably THE most socialized healthcare system in the world) as matching the U.S. in cancer survival rates. The study also looked at only four types of cancer (prostate, colon, rectal, and breast)… ALL of which are most common among older Americans most likely to be on Medicare… our own single-payer government healthcare system.

Now, despite those facts, some will still try and argue that the mere fact the survival rate is higher here points to our superior medical technology… fueled by profit. “Take that profit motive away, medical innovation suffers and people die.” More nonsense. You can’t draw “causality” based on two facts that may or may not be directly related. Maybe our fitness crazed culture plays a role? And what happens to the numbers when you include other cancers like melanoma (with all our sun-worshipers) or leukemia (which may or may not be caused by exposure to too much EMF radiation… from sources like power lines and cellphones)? We don’t know because the report doesn’t say. And did they include Brits and Canadians that sought out “money-is-no-object” private care in their sample? Again, we don’t know because they don’t say. One thing’s for sure, American doctors aren’t withholding any vast wealth of medical technology from the rest of the world, so the reason for the difference is almost certainly environmental, not technological.

As I noted in previous weeks, the U.S. does not have a monopoly on medical innovation. But in recent years, the trend has been to focus more on “cosmeceuticals” with high profit margins. While we focus on pills for “restless leg syndrome, a better diet pill, the next E.D. treatment (Viagra is actually a British invention) or (Gawd help me) a pill for longer eye lashes”, cures for cancer, AIDS, heart and lung disease all fall by the wayside… quite possibly because keeping them “chronic” keeps the money rolling in. Meanwhile, Thailand’s socialized healthcare system developed the worlds first HIV vaccine. So much for the lack of a profit motive stifling medical innovation. In fact, it is the LACK of a profit motive that frees up medical research to concentrate on deadlier, yet less lucrative, ailments.

And on a personal note, anyone that cites “God” to argue AGAINST healthcare reform… be it “pulling the plug on grandma” or “abortion”… I’d like to point out Jesus, when he went around healing the sick, didn’t ask people for their insurance card before he’d render service. If we find ourselves before God, and I have to explain why I wanted to provide healthcare to the poor while you want to argue against helping people based upon some imagined religious reason, I feel I’m on more solid ground then you are.
 


 

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