How To Fight Heathcare Fearmongers and Demagogues

change-u-wantedMy friend, Keith, from New Orleans, just emailed to say he attended a local “town meeting” on health care and tried to get a word in favor but was almost hounded out of the room.

Why are these meetings brimming with so much anger? Because Republican Astroturfers have joined the same old right-wing broadcast demagogues that have been spewing hate and fear for years, to create a tempest.

But why are they getting away with it? Why aren’t progressives — indeed, why aren’t ordinary citizens — taking the meetings back?

Mainly because there’s still no healthcare plan. All we have are some initial markups from several congressional committees, which differ from one another in significant ways. The White House is waiting to see what emerges from the House and Senate before insisting on what it wants, maybe in conference committee.

But that’s the problem: It’s always easier to stir up fear and anger against something that’s amorphous than to stir up enthusiasm for it.

The White House has just announced a web page designed to rebut some of the insane charges that the right is instigating. That won’t be enough. The President has to be more specific about what he’s for and what he’s against. Without these specifics, the right can conjure up every demon in its arsenal while the middle and left can only shrug their shoulders.

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The President needs to be very specific about two things in particular: (1) Who will pay? and (2) Why the public option is so important — and why it’s not a Trojan Horse to a government takeover.

1. Admit that taxes will have to be raised and that cost-savings won’t be sufficient to achieve nearly universal care. But be absolutely clear that taxes will be raised only on the very top. The President needs to decide whether he favors a surcharge on the top 2 percent, or a cap on tax-free employee benefits (which would affect only the very top), or some combination, and then announce which he prefers and why.

2. Say unequivocally that the public option is essential for controlling costs and getting private insurers to offer people better deals, not at all a step toward a government takeover of health care.

  • Being the one public plan, it will have large economies of scale that will enable it to negotiate more favorable terms with pharmaceutical companies and other providers. (Here, he must clear up any confusion about any deal made with Big Pharma.) But this won’t lead to a government takeover of health care. The whole point of cost containment is to provide the public with health care on more favorable terms. If the public plan negotiates better terms — thereby demonstrating that drug companies and other providers can meet them — private plans can seek similar deals.
  • It will have low administrative costs — Medicare’s administrative costs per enrollee are a small fraction of typical private insurance costs — but that’s no problem, it’s a strength. One goal of health-care reform is to lower administrative costs. Competition with a public option is the only way to push private plans to trim their bureaucracies and become more efficient.
  • While it’s true that the public won’t have to show profits, plenty of private plans are already not-for-profit. And if nonprofit plans can offer high-quality health care more cheaply than for-profit plans, why should for-profit plans be coddled? The public plan would merely force profit-making private plans to take whatever steps were necessary to become more competitive. Once again, a plus.
  • The public plan won’t be subsidized by government. Subsidies go to families who need them in order to afford health care. They’re free to choose the public plan, but that’s only one option. They could take their subsidy and buy a private plan just as easily. The public plan may not dip into general revenues to cover its costs. It must pay for itself. And any government entity that oversees the health-insurance pool or acts as referee in setting ground rules for all plans will not favor the public plan.

robert_reich.jpgNow’s the time for specifics. It’s impossible to fight fearmongering lies about specifics with nothing but positive principles.

by Robert Reich

This article first appeared on Robert Reich’s Blog. Republished with permission

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Comments

  1. Joe Weinstein says

    ” Without … specifics, the right can conjure up every demon in its arsenal while the middle and left can only shrug their shoulders.”

    As usual, Reich is on target. It’s no shame to change tactical course and take the advice of someone with brains, like Reich.

    Meanwhile, it continues to be demoralizing – for initial and still would-be supporters of this administration – to witness a large elaborate tax-funded presidential apparatus kicking around some lofty slogans and concepts for months, and all the while missing the obvious that finally has to be told from the sidelines by a columnist.

    Unhappily this picture has become par for the course for this administration and for its initial and still-would-be supporters like myself.

    Overseas we’re simply getting Bush redux – a most unrealistic sort of ‘realism’: macho wars without end, yet utter wimpiness on nukes (the program seems now to be to make the world safe for the nukes of Kim and Khamenei). Our worry is supposed to be that for some Mideast people (but for sure not Darfuris) life is ‘intolerable’ because their annointed terror regimes are not yet getting their way. And no worries about suppressed Iranians, N. Koreans, Zimbabweans, Tibetans and Burmese – it’s simply not ‘realism’ even to look like, let alone actually be, working for new regimes for these people.

    And at home, from the likes of Salazar and Vilsack, we get a nondescript ‘balanced’ approach to environmental stresses – kind of like my adolescent son’s diet – half health food, half junk food. A bit of Muir here, a bit of Palin there. Heading for Copehagen on climate, it seems that the main climate policy will amount to a declaration like that of a thousand years ago by the then-king Canute of Denmark (and England) – the temperatures and sea-level are commanded not to advance.

  2. Joe Weinstein says

    ” Without … specifics, the right can conjure up every demon in its arsenal while the middle and left can only shrug their shoulders.”

    As usual, Reich is on target. It’s no shame to change tactical course and take the advice of someone with brains, like Reich.

    Meanwhile, it continues to be demoralizing – for initial and still would-be supporters of this administration – to witness a large elaborate tax-funded presidential apparatus kicking around some lofty slogans and concepts for months, and all the while missing the obvious that finally has to be told from the sidelines by a columnist.

    Unhappily this picture has become par for the course for this administration and for its initial and still-would-be supporters like myself.

    Overseas we’re simply getting Bush redux – a most unrealistic sort of ‘realism': macho wars without end, yet utter wimpiness on nukes (the program seems now to be to make the world safe for the nukes of Kim and Khamenei). Our worry is supposed to be that for some Mideast people (but for sure not Darfuris) life is ‘intolerable’ because their annointed terror regimes are not yet getting their way. And no worries about suppressed Iranians, N. Koreans, Zimbabweans, Tibetans and Burmese – it’s simply not ‘realism’ even to look like, let alone actually be, working for new regimes for these people.

    And at home, from the likes of Salazar and Vilsack, we get a nondescript ‘balanced’ approach to environmental stresses – kind of like my adolescent son’s diet – half health food, half junk food. A bit of Muir here, a bit of Palin there. Heading for Copehagen on climate, it seems that the main climate policy will amount to a declaration like that of a thousand years ago by the then-king Canute of Denmark (and England) – the temperatures and sea-level are commanded not to advance.

  3. Timeparticle says

    The New York Times reported today that the American Medical Association (AMA) is opposed to the creation of a public health insurance option, telling the Senate Finance Committee that it “threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.” Facing considerable attention (and criticism), AMA is now trying to spin its opposition:

    Today’s New York Times story creates a false impression about the AMA’s position on a public plan option in health care reform legislation. The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress. This includes a federally chartered co-op health plan or a level playing field option for all plans. The AMA is working to achieve meaningful health reform this year and is ready to stand behind legislation that includes coverage options that work for patients and physicians.

    This statement really isn’t any better; AMA is still not committed to a robust public option. As Igor Volsky notes, “A public plan that lacks the ability to negotiate cheaper rates with providers and push private insurers to do the same is a public plan in name only. While it may provide a repository for individuals who don’t trust private insurers, it will be unable to significantly lower health care costs.”

  4. Timeparticle says

    The New York Times reported that the American Medical Association (AMA) is opposed to the creation of a public health insurance option, telling the Senate Finance Committee that it “threatens to restrict patient choice by driving out private insurers, which currently provide coverage for nearly 70 percent of Americans.” Facing considerable attention (and criticism), AMA is now trying to spin its opposition:

    The New York Times story creates a false impression about the AMA’s position on a public plan option in health care reform legislation. The AMA opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations of the public plan that are currently under discussion in Congress. This includes a federally chartered co-op health plan or a level playing field option for all plans. The AMA is working to achieve meaningful health reform this year and is ready to stand behind legislation that includes coverage options that work for patients and physicians.

    This statement really isn’t any better; AMA is still not committed to a robust public option. As Igor Volsky notes, “A public plan that lacks the ability to negotiate cheaper rates with providers and push private insurers to do the same is a public plan in name only. While it may provide a repository for individuals who don’t trust private insurers, it will be unable to significantly lower health care costs.”

    Meanwhile, half of the bankruptcies in our country are caused by medical and healthcare expenses.

  5. jacksmith says

    Throw The Healthcare Obstructionist Out!

    More than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 76% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (85% of democrats, 71% of independents, and 60% republicans). Basically everyone.

    We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. And the most costly. Costing over twice as much as every other county. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don’t die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.

    I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. A trillion dollar taxpayer funded private health insurance bailout is all you really get, without a robust government-run public option available on day one. Co-OP’s ARE NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION. They are a fraud being pushed by the GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry that is KILLING YOU!

    YOU CANT HAVE AN INSURANCE MANDATE WITHOUT A ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION. MANDATING PRIVATE FOR PROFIT HEALTH INSURANCE AS YOUR ONLY CHOICE WOULD BE A DISASTER. AND UNETHICAL, CORRUPT, AND MORALLY REPUGNANT. AND PROBABLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS WELL.

    These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!

    Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it’s President Obama’s fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.

    But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.

    But you don’t have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.

    Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will make you feel better too.

    There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.

    I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!

    You have been AMAZING!!! people. Don’t loose heart. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy saving the World. :-)

    God Bless You

    jacksmith — Working Class

    I REST MY CASE (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/25/why-markets-cant-cure-healthcare/)

    Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.

    * Richard Shelby of Alabama
    * Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    * John McCain of Arizona
    * Mel Martinez of Florida
    * Johnny Isakson of Georgia
    * Mike Crapo of Idaho
    * Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    * Sam Brownback of Kansas
    * Jim Bunning of Kentucky
    * David Vitter of Louisiana
    * Kit Bond of Missouri
    * Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
    * Richard Burr of North Carolina
    * George Voinovich of Ohio
    * Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
    * Jim DeMint of South Carolina
    * John Thune of South Dakota
    * Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
    * Bob Bennett of Utah

  6. Matt Ruben says

    Good piece – but citizens are taking these meetings back, at least in Philadelphia. Wednesday’s Town Hall with Joe Sestak was very civil, and the audience was at least 3-1 in favor of reform. Sestak wanted to take as many anti-reform questions/comments as he could, but it was still obvious the room was pro-reform, and no one was hounded or intimidated.

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