Part Three: Still More Of Answering The
Right's Deadly Lies In The Health Care Debate
hyperlinked to sources. For all
sources, see the data
Your sources today include: the New
York Times, mediamatters.org, commondreams.org, The Economist, msnbc.com, CNN,
The Nation magazine, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Globe
and Mail (a Canadian newspaper), the CIA Factbook, USA Today and Reuters.
I usually try to vary the issues from
podcast to podcast, but certain times you can't do that.
The health care debate is dominating radio, cable TV and the water cooler
wars like nothing else.
So here you'll get some new facts,
hear some points made in prior shows amplified on, and see how to go on the
offensive in your discussions.
Today's show stands on its own.
For the most comprehensive take on the entire health care debate, I
strongly urge you to listen to podcasts 152 and 154 as well as today's.
Check out all three and you'll be
armed and dangerous, figuratively speaking, to go verbally kick some right-wing
To start things off, what would any
episode of Blast The Right be like without one of Sean Hannity's patented
misrepresentations of the truth? Take
audio: Sean Hannity
[T]onight's universal nightmare segment is brought
to you by the U.K.'s national health service.
A British man named Mark Watson visited this hospital to have his
appendix removed. Now, to his
surprise, he returned to this very same hospital a month later with a ruptured
appendix. That's right, the first
time around, the hospital actually didn't remove Watson's appendix, and when he
went back the second time, he got an infection, which sent him back a third
time, and the result? He lost
Now Watson told the Daily Mail: "I had a
temporary job at a sports shop, but when I took in two medical certificates
saying I had my appendix out twice, they didn't believe me.
I can barely walk, I'm in constant pain."
Don't worry, though!
A spokesman for the hospital had the following to say: "We would
like to apologize if Mr. Watson felt dissatisfied with the care he received at
Great Western Hospital."
Well, that's comforting, isn't it?
Just think—in just a few short weeks, all Americans can be forced into
a system just like that one.
Hannity misleads his audience three
ways here. Did you catch them?
To start off with, he implies that
the British system is rife with such medical errors, while ours isn't.
countries with universal coverage do far better than us in avoiding medical and
In fact, the best estimate is that 100,000
Americans die every year from preventable medical errors.
Next, Hannity says Americans will be
"forced" into a different system.
Someone please buy Hannity a dictionary.
The word option, as in public option, means you choose whether to proceed
along that path. No one forces you
to do anything.
Finally, Hannity says that what
health care reform will give you is a "system just like that one."
Wrong. The British system is
true socialized medicine, nationalized medicine, where the government employs
the doctors and owns the hospitals. No
one is proposing that for the United States.
The public option would be a choice
to enter a "single payer" system. That
means you choose the private doctors and private hospitals you want, and the
government pays the bills. Medicare
is a single payer system. And we all
know the horrors of Medicare. Just
ask any senior citizen.
(In case you don't know, Medicare is extremely
popular among the 65-plus crowd).
Now here's a related point.
By showcasing the alleged faults of other systems, right-wingers are
making the case that we have the best health care system.
Sometimes they make that case explicitly, proclaiming that we have the
best health care system in the world.
Yet the facts are -- surprise,
surprise -- otherwise.
Overall, experts analyzed
various studies that compared national health care systems in developed nations.
The conclusion was, it's a
mixed bag, with the United
States doing better in some areas, like cancer care, and worse in others, like
preventing deaths from treatable and preventable conditions.
The bottom line was
unmistakable. The analysts found no support for the claim routinely made by
politicians that American health care is the best in the world and no hard
evidence of any particular area in which American health care is truly
What about the two bugaboos of the
right, Canada and Great Britain?
In many areas, Canadians receive
better care with better results and longer survival periods: renal dialysis,
kidney transplants, childhood leukemia, colorectal cancer.
Bottom line: according to the CIA
Factbook, hardly a liberal source, Canadians overall enjoy over three years
expectancy than Americans, and the Canadian infant
mortality rate is far below ours.
And this is with Canada spending
about half what we do per capita on health care.
Even in the horrible U.K., with true
socialized medicine -- which to stress again, no one is proposing here -- even
in the horrible U.K, British citizens on average live longer than Americans, and
fewer U.K. infants per capita die before the age of one than do American
yes, the U.K. spends less than half
what we do per person on health care.
also claims the citizens of other nations are unhappy with their health care
systems. Yet in a recent poll, 87%
of Canadians said
their health care system is better than ours.
And whatever changes do need to be made, Canadians favor
a public solution.
in Great Britain, the NHS, the National Heath Service is so popular, that the
head of the British Conservative party felt compelled to proclaim
that "Conservatives are the party of the NHS."
was to counter the claims of a rogue member of that party on American television
that the NHS was a 60-year-old mistake. You
can probably guess where on American television he made that claim.
this all up, the picture the right paints doesn't compute.
If these universal coverage systems were as presented by the right-wing,
then it would be impossible for their citizens to live longer and for them to be
having less infants dying than we do. Their
citizens should be dying in the streets.
they actually do better than us by many measures.
situation now stands, it's the United States which has the lowest life
expectancy, and the highest infant mortality rate, of any developed nation.
these other countries often spend as little as half as much per person as we do.
if we had only half the money we did to spend on health care.
How bad would our system be?
imagine if they had double the funds available.
They'd be making house calls with gold-plated MRI machines.
time a right-winger starts complaining about any other country's universal
health care system -- "They don't cover this" and "They don't do
that" -- about breast cancer treatments, for example -- you can point out
that even if true, that's because they only spend half what we do per person.
they had double the money, our level of spending, they certainly would cover
this and do that. And a heck of a
lot more, beyond what we do, given how much more effective they are in getting a
bang from their health care buck.
OK, before a musical interlude is
upon us, a few real quick rebuttals to some miscellaneous right-wing talking
Right-wingers claim the experience of
Massachusetts is evidence of a universal coverage failure.
Not so. A respected
non-partisan research group concluded
that the Massachusetts program has been a success, with the usual adjustments
having to be made as with any new plan.
Related to that: Hannity often rants
about how "Medicare is bankrupt, how can we trust the government with our
health care?" Reality check: In
the last ten years, health insurance companies more
So the insurance companies massively increased their revenue stream.
Have Medicare taxes doubled? No.
Have appropriations for Medicare doubled?
No. As a listener wrote:
"Medicare can only go bankrupt when Congress underfunds it."
Another false claim: Democratic
health care reforms will hurt small businesses.
Fact is, the vast majority of small businesses are exempt
from the reform. And the ones that
are covered? Both the Congressional
Budget Office and a respected MIT researcher concluded
they would not be hurt, and would likely benefit.
Lastly, Frank Luntz has been claiming
doctor payments would be reduced, so you won't be able to get procedures done.
Luntz, as is so often the case, is wrong.
Payments actually are increased by the proposed legislation, which is why
the AMA endorsed that aspect of the bill.
In a moment, perhaps the most absurd
right-wing claim of all. Stick
I have to tell you, I literally break
out laughing at the absurdity of hearing right-wingers fashioning themselves as
the defenders of Medicare against the evil Democrats, whose health care reform
will destroy that program.
The right has been opposing
efforts to provide health care for all Americans ever since FDR first considered
it and Truman formally proposed national health insurance in 1945.
The right called it socialism back then also.
The right used the same tactics in
its opposition to Medicare.
In fact, this is, logically speaking,
much ado about nothing. The right would have you believe that the new health
care bill, once enacted, would be some kind of irresistible force, an
un-changeable monster that would destroy Medicare.
I think a simple way to allay any
senior fears is, to point out, that Democrats are the creators and multi-decade
defenders of Medicare. If the
Democratic health care reform did somehow wind up hurting Medicare, Democrats
would simply fix the law.
It's only Republicans who want to
destroy Medicare. More on that
Now, how about I talk to you a bit on
the death panel front? Which is what
right-wingers term creation of advance directives and end-of-life counseling.
It turns out that a leading
conservative Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson, actually himself put
a provision in a bill that would set up a government program to pay for just
such end-of-life counseling.
And until recently, Newt Gingrich and
Sarah Palin supported
people creating advance directives, which set guidelines for a person's medical
care if they're incapacitated or comatose.
How quickly the right changes its
tune if it thinks it can score them political points.
What a shame, since studies show
that end-of-life counseling actually produces longer life and more comfort.
Related to the right-wing death panel
claim, is their assertion that the Democrats support a death book, which urges
ill veterans to commit suicide. Of
course, the Veteran's Administration booklet in question does no such thing.
And contrary to what I heard Sean
Hannity claim, George W. Bush didn't withdraw the booklet only to have Obama
reactivate it. The booklet was available
throughout Bush's entire term. But
somehow the right didn't complain about it then.
You may have heard the right attacking
Rahm Emanuel's brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel.
He's a special health care advisor to President Obama.
The right has taken a few words he's written -- where he's actually
describing the views of others -- and made it seem that Dr. Emanuel favors
denying care to the disabled.
Actually, his lifelong views are the
opposite. He's long been an opponent
of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
How about we now get into a few
examples of what I must label, honestly, right-wing imbecility?
One of my favorites is what the
conservative Investor's Business Daily publication wrote:
People such as scientist
Stephen Hawking wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health
Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical
handicaps, is essentially worthless.
Hmm, only problem is, Stephen Hawking
is a British citizen and has lived his entire life there!
the care he's gotten.
Another jaw dropper is right-wing
media stars proudly playing this 1961 clip from Ronald Reagan:
Write those letters now, call your friends and tell
them to write. If you don't, this
program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow.
And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every
area of freedom as we have known it in this country.
Until, one day, as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have
And if you don't do this and I don't do this, one of
these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children
and our children's children what it once was like in America—when men
The cons are maybe kind of tone deaf
since Reagan was here harshly advocating
against a legislative forerunner of Medicare.
Wait a minute, I thought the right is
claiming to now be the protector of Medicare.
I'm confused. Mr. or Ms.
Right-Winger, can you please help set me straight?
Moving right along here, we all know
that watching Fox News makes you less
likely to know the true facts. For example, 75% of Fox viewers, vs. only 30%
of MSNBC/CNN viewers, are under the misapprehension that under Obama's health
care reform, the government will be able to pull the plug on grandma.
So that means, over half the country
doesn't know Medicare is a government program!
What an indictment this is of our
schools and of our corporate mass media. But
it also makes you wonder, is our population just dumber than the population of
any other nation on the face of the earth?
Do these people think Medicare is a
private company? Many of the 54%
have to be elderly on Medicare. Do
they have memories of writing out and sending a premium check every year to some
Medicare Corporation, Inc.?
Ok, here are two points raised by
David from Maine wrote in that he was
told by some right-wing whippersnapper -- oh, the passions of youth -- that
there aren't really 50 million uninsured, why over half are illegal immigrants.
I'd reply, fine, if the problem's so
small, then it should be easy to fix, shouldn't it?
Beyond that, the actual numbers are
estimate is 47 million uninsured.
Some are only for part of a year, but
of millions are uninsured for entire years, and almost 20 million
have been uninsured for four straight years.
Of the 13 million young adults
without insurance, most are not, as the right claims, those who can afford it
but choose not to buy coverage. The
majority are lower income.
Same overall -- two-thirds of the
uninsured earn less than the national median income.
Oh yeah, about the
"illegals"? About 6
million, one in eight of the uninsured, are undocumented immigrants.
Not half. And they're not
eligible for health insurance subsidies under the proposed legislation.
Another email: Jim from Bakersfield,
California wrote in about right-wing criticism of the Democrats for not
supporting a bill requiring members of Congress to sign up for the public
Jim correctly wrote that "it
would be contrary to fundamental fairness to compel members who vote for a bill
to participate in a plan which is optional for the rest of the country."
But he felt that still
the best publicity you
could have for the bill would be to have the whole of the Democratic party sign
up for the option and show the rest of America that there's nothing to fear.
I agree with both of Jim's points.
By the way, contrary to what the
right is claiming, most
polls still show more of the public supports a public plan option than
doesn't, although the amount of support has declined over the months as
right-wing propaganda takes its toll.
Up next: we'll conclude with some
ways to take the offensive when speaking with your friendly local right-winger,
and then take a look at the biggest picture.
I don't know about you, but I get
awful tired of responding to one, after another, after another right-wing
distortion, half-truth or outright lie. So
right off the bat, or if not then, whenever you get a chance, go on the
offensive. Let the right-winger be
the one trying to disprove what you're saying.
And you know what, they won't be able to.
Here's some ammo to go on the
offensive with. Have at least two or
three at your fingertips.
To start off with, here's a gentle
one. Ask your rightward leaning
conversation partner, "Do you know the difference between socialized
medicine and single payer?"
I guarantee you, most right-wingers
don't. Well, you explain it to them,
and give Medicare as an example of single payer.
This may well establish a frame
around your conversation that you know what you're talking about, that you
understand some basic facts about the health care debate, and they don't.
Here's another: few right-wingers
will be aware of the fact, that over 6
in 10 personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills.
And the vast majority of these people had health insurance, obviously
In other words, hundreds of thousands
of Americans are forced into bankruptcy every year by the costs of their health
What is the right-wing solution to
that? Press for an answer.
You can then up the ante.
Ask them if they know that the United States is last
among all developed nations in life expectancy.
Ask them if they know that we have the
worst record as well in infant mortality.
They probably don't know either fact.
Then pose the question: how could we have the best health care system in
the world, if our adults die younger and our babies die more often?
Mention that every developed nation
that beats us, has universal health care. And
every one of those countries spends
far less, often half as much, on health care per person as we do.
Again challenge them to tell you, how
they propose to fix our obviously broken system.
You can, if you want, next translate
all this into human lives. Tell the
--that if our shamefully high infant
mortality rate were as low as, say Japan's or Sweden's, 12,000
American children would live, not die, every year.
--that the national Institute of
Medicine says 18,000
Americans die every year because of lack of health insurance.
--and that 100,000
Americans would live, not die every year, if our health care system did as good
on preventable deaths due to treatable conditions, as the health care systems in
countries like Japan, France and Australia.
Does he or she care?
What does he or she propose to do about this?
Now the next step is, when the
stammering right-winger starts spewing out platitudes like free market, tax
credits, etc., tell them that vague platitudes don't cut it when people's lives
are at stake.
For example, how specifically will
their measures cover the uninsured? The so-called free market is what got us
into this mess. Tax credits are
irrelevant to low income workers who pay little or no federal income tax, and
when health coverage can cost $12,000
plus for a family of four.
At this point, you may well feel
inclined to deftly insert the ideological knife.
Tell them what Reagan said
about Medicare back
in 1961, that it was going to destroy all our freedoms.
Ask, was Reagan wrong about that, Medicare leading to a loss of all
our freedoms? If so, well then,
isn't it possible, even likely, that current day right-wingers are just as wrong
now, that a single payer public option will work out just fine?
That maybe even Medicare for all would be just peachy keen dandy?
On the other hand, if they insist
Reagan was correct in opposing Medicare, then ask why their side is now posing
as the defenders of Medicare against the Democrats.
The Republicans can't have it both ways.
Ok, this last point is the biggie.
Listen to Democratic representative Anthony Weiner of New York on Joe
Rep. Anthony Weiner
Look, the problem that we have here, is that we're
trying to jury-rig this system so that the insurance companies still continue to
make healthy profits. Why? What is
an insurance company—they don't do a single checkup, they don't do a single
exam, they don't perform an operation.
Medicare has a 4 percent overhead rate.
Insurance companies take about $230 billion out of the system every year
in profits and overhead.
The real question is why we have a private plan.
The private insurance industry is
really just a giant, Rube Goldberg-like payment mechanism, skimming as much as 31%
off the top for administrative costs.
The government is very capable of
creating and utilizing actuarial tables to figure out how much revenue has to be
collected to pay for the number of claims expected to be paid out.
We don't need multi-billion dollar
profits diverted from being used to provide actual health care, nor do we need
huge bureaucracies devoted
to denying claims and canceling policies, or huge advertising budgets, or
payments of dividends to stockholders, or multi-million -- sometimes tens or
even hundreds of million dollar -- compensation
packages for CEO's.
Ok, this is an argument for national
single payer, Medicare for all, for the entire system.
But how much more so does it apply to the necessity of at least offering
a public option if we can't get full single payer now.
If it's your wont, you can always try
a bit of humor. Send the
right-winger to the "One Million Strong Against Our Socialist Fire
Reading from that site, a bit
rearranged for clarity:
For too long now, fire
departments across the United States have been SOCIALIST organizations,
resulting in TAXES on the American people.
It is time to open the
fire department up to private industry. There are private companies
(Halliburton, etc.) who could step in tomorrow
and take over every fire department in America and charge the consumer directly.
The serious point is, we have
"socialist" fire, police, roads, public schools, water.
If citizenship entitles you to police, fire, roads, education and water,
how is medical care to save your very life, less important or less appropriate?
Health care should be seen not as a
privilege, but as a right, like it is in every other developed nation on the
face of the earth. Why are we so
The ultimate problem is the
multi-billion dollar profit health insurance industry that's grown up, and along
the way so far successfully propagandized for its own continued existence.
I don't want my government designing
and making iPods. Apple does that
far better. But to repeat, health
insurance companies do nothing more than perform a bookkeeping function.
The government will do it at least as well, and far, far cheaper.
You may be happy to hear, that
there's starting to be some strong progressive blowback against the anti-public
Labor unions have warned
Democrats they won't be supported by labor come next election, if they don't
vote now for a strong public option.
Sixty progressive House Democrats signed
a letter pledging that any health care reform bill without a strong public
option won't get their support.
Rep. Weiner recently stated
up to 100 Democrats would actually oppose any plan without a strong public
So let's finally, you and I, together
with other progressives around the country, let's all together finally drag the
right-wing into the 21st century.
You can go to callcongress.org for
toll-free numbers, or, you can reach the Congressional switchboard at
202-224-3121 and the White House comment line at 202-456-1111.
It's getting close to now or never.