Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Right Wing Is Trying To Scare Your Grandma.

Beware the snake-oil salesmen. Their products will make--and keep--you sick.

Some welcome perspective on the current role of the United States government in the health care of millions from Lincoln Mitchell, Assistant Professor in the Practice of International Politics at Columbia University, on HuffPo:

Old people, some poor people and veterans already have government supported health care through Medicare, Medicaid and various veterans benefits. These programs are, of course, far from perfect, but they are pretty good. While many seniors would like to see Medicare reformed, it is rare to see senior citizens, or organizations of senior citizens call for abolishing Medicare. Similarly, many veterans, some who served decades ago rely on veteran's hospitals for an important part of their health care. My father is a veteran who voices more than the occasional criticism of the US government, but I have never heard him say that he wishes veterans didn't get any health care or that the government should close the veterans hospitals.

Senior citizens and veterans are both well organized and powerful interest groups, representing tens of millions of Americans, but government involvement in the health care sector has hardly caused any pubic outrage among these two key constituent groups. On the contrary, both usually push very hard for the expansion of Medicare and veterans benefits. If the American people really wanted government out of the health care industry, or if the government was unable to play a useful and positive role in the delivery of health care, it is pretty likely that these groups would have made a lot of noise about this issue years ago, but they have not.

Medicaid recipients are not as well organized as either veterans or senior citizens, but recipients of Medicaid very rarely argue for weaker Medicaid programs or less involvement by the government in providing health care services. Again, the opposite is true. Recipients of Medicaid have often shown a preference for bigger programs with more government involvement.

Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' benefits have become an indispensible part of our health care system providing valuable services and benefits to people, many of whom would have very few health care options were it not for these government programs. This is something which should be kept in mind when scare tactics about government takeover of health care are used. These programs also demonstrate the inaccuracy, or perhaps nuttiness, of some of the more outlandish claims about Obama's proposed programs. For example, if the government were really going to ration health care or set up "death panels" as part of government health care programs, wouldn't the government have started by doing these things to the poor, the elderly or disabled veterans-precisely the people who rely on the government for health care today?

The right's "death panelists"--Sarah Palin, Chuck Grassley, John Kyl, Newt Gingrich and others--along with their megaphones at FOX News and talk radio continue to spread misinformation and blatant lies about health care reform. They have portrayed government involvement in health care--especially the public option--as a bogeyman. President Obama commented at a town hall meeting in late July, "I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, 'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare." Even a Republican--Representative Robert Inglis of South Carolina--told to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," said, "I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government...(b)ut he wasn't having any of it."

The concerted effort on the right to spread false information about health care reform will not end. Many Americans get their information--or misinformation--from conservative talk radio entertainers and the "talk TV" that is FOX News. To this slice of the electorate, dissemblers such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are seers, and brave truth-tellers battling an encroaching tyranny that, of course, they are slickly packaging for their gullible public. For the rest of us, some welcome perspective such as Dr. Mitchell's is a necessary respite from the liars and snake-oil salesmen trying to sell their bad medicine.

BeltwayBlips: vote it up!

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