Health care reform should be framed as civil rights movement: Alter


"The United States has two parties now--the Obama Party and the Fox Party," writes
Jonathan Alter in Newsweek. He continues:

The Obama Party is larger, but it is unfocused and its troops are whiny. The Fox Party, which shows up en masse to harass politicians, is noisy and practiced in the art of simplistic obstruction. As the health-care debate rages, it's the Party of Sort-of-Maybe-Yes versus the Party of Hell No! The Yessers are more lackadaisical because they've forgotten the stakes--they've forgotten that this is the most important civil-rights bill in a generation, though it is rarely framed that way.


To quote Steven Perlstein:
"Enough already with the public option! It is not the be-all and end-all of health-care reform. It is not the long-awaited safety net for the uninsured. And if, as many liberals hope, it turns out to be nothing more than Medicare for All, it won't do anything to hold down long-term growth in health spending...

...One goal of health-care reform is to begin to address these market imperfections. But there's no particular evidence that a government-run insurance plan will be any more successful than what we currently get from big private insurers -- unless, of course, the government-run plan is so big or so powerful that it can dictate prices to providers, as Medicare now does. Proposing that, however, would immediately unite doctors, hospitals and drug companies in opposing reform...

...In sum, there is nothing about having one government-owned health insurance company that is likely to change the competitive dynamic and bring costs under control...

...That's not to say there aren't other things we could do -- many fixes are already included in bills before Congress. These include the government-sponsored health-care exchanges..."

His full post is here:

Given the incredible history of failure of government-run programs, such as medicare, medicaid, social security, and the johnny-come-lately stimulus plan and cash-for-clunkers, it never ceases to amaze me that there are still those who would like to turn over their health care to the government. Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results: isn't that the definition of insanity?

I am opposed to the health care reform being proposed by our legislators. This does not mean that I am opposed to health care reform. This does mean that I believe there are much better options that should be considered for implementation. Health care reform can happen without the so-called, "public option."

Please do not paint the opponents of H.R. 3200 as non-caring FOX-bot idiots. I have a mind of my own and I use it to think for myself. Thank you very much.

It is just this kind of rhetoric that polarizes people and keeps meaningful dialogue from taking place.


At least one thing you wrote can't go unaddressed.

You wrote about "the incredible failure of Medicare. " ?!?!?!?!?

That would be news to millions of seniors who have benefited from that government program in the past 40+ years.

To echo your words, "It is just this kind of rhetoric that polarizes people and keeps meaningful dialogue from taking place."

Yes, Medicare has delivered medical services to seniors since its inception under LBJ. However, its largest part, which covers hospital costs, is reportedly on its way to a deficit next year and on course to exhaust its surplus entirely by 2019. That means that all of the dollars that I've paid into this program over the past 30+ years won't be there to cover me if I need medicare assistance later in life.

If you think that's a success story, I know a lot of businesses who'd love to have you as their angel investor. ;-)

Gary, a major reason the Obama administration is having so much trouble defining and defending their position is because of one innocent, little word: "public."

If only they'd used the term "Anti-Insurance Industry" option or "Alternative to 8-figure CEO Salary" option, things might be going better. No matter how Obama or his administration spins it, the word "public" has inherently negative connotations. Probably hearkens back to visions of "public" relief or "public" assistance. Hell, these days, people could be thinking of "public" transportation or "public" bathrooms and getting a bad feeling.

The point is, this one word, "public," provides the perfect segue for the insurance lobby, anti-reformers, and squawk-radio to label the whole plan as "government -ontrolled", "socialist" , or, for some Right-wingers, "fascist".

No matter how negatively Americans perceive "Big Insurance", the notion of a "public" option seems much worse. Even if a public option is the only way mitigate the insurance industry's virtually dictatorial control of American health care, the negative "spin" that naysayers can attach to the word "public" is simply too strong.

Unfortunately, Obama's chief message for positive change is lost whenever he says the best alternative to Big Insurance is the "public" option. No wonder he's having a hard time. Americans understand the words "greedy", "self-serving", and "corrupt". Why, oh why can't someone among Obama's sharp staff find a way to define "public" option for what it really is: A viable alternative to everything that's wrong with commercial managed care.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on August 18, 2009 1:44 PM.

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