As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Assaults On The Status Quo

If we're going to get meaningful health care reform in this country, it will be because people talked to their neighbors, rebutted the smears and advocated so loudly that they became impossible to ignore. There are some small stories that can make us hopeful but much work to be done. When Blue Cross of North Carolina started readying Harry and Louise-style attack ads to scaremonger Americans on a public option, the outcry was sufficiently loud that the White House forced the insurer to back down and scrap their plans. When compromisers tried to create a trigger mechanism that would introduce a public option only if insurance companies don't voluntarily reduce costs and expand coverage, health care advocates widely disparaged the idea, arguing that the trigger has already been met, and the talk cooled.

But the forces protecting the status quo won't stop. A brand-new conservative group with links to none other than the teabaggers will launch an ad campaign comparing the US system to (horrors!) Canada's. According to their ad, government bureaucrats in Canada make decisions on coverage and treatment. Good thing we live here in America, where only private insurance bureaucrats get to make those decisions!

And Rick Scott, the corrupt former hospital CEO who paid the largest fine in American history for defrauding the US Government for billions, is planning to run a 30-minute infomercial after "Meet The Press" in Washington, DC designed to influence elite opinion with slanders and lies about health care reform.

Rick Scott will likely continue to mislead viewers about the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, a newly-created entity by the economic recovery package signed into law by President Obama in February. Mr. Scott will likely make a specific claim: "not only could a government board deny your choice in doctors, but it can control life and death for some patients." This statement is demonstrably false. In reality, the powers of this so-called "government board" are clearly defined and cannot do what Mr. Scott claims. The statutory authority of the Council specifically excludes the power "to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer." It is worth noting that even under President Bush, the National Institutes of Health already had an annual budget of $355 million to conduct precisely this type of research. Plainly, this has not led to the sort of catastrophic consequences in America that Mr. Scott warns against.

The advertisement will likely deceive viewers by blatantly misrepresenting the positions of two physicians. While the advertisement paints both as opponents of any role for government in health care reform, in reality, just the opposite is true. Both physicians are in fact supporters of universal health care. What they are opposed to is the U.S. ‘two-tiered' system that already rations health care based on the ability to pay. In fact, Mr. Scott misrepresented Dr. Day's comments, and Dr. Day openly mocked the ineffectiveness of the U.S. health care system. What Dr. Day is opposed to is Canada's outdated funding model, not Canada's healthcare system. Dr. Day actually advocates reform of the funding structure to preserve Canada's healthcare system, not dismantle it [...]

If Scott's 30-minute "documentary" contains any falsehoods, NBC will be liable for an FCC violation. Furthermore, Meet the Press needs to know that they're being used by Rick Scott, and will be tarnished by his swiftboating.

Sign the petition, blah blah.

In addition, groups are going after the real source of where any downfall in health care reform will lie, President Nelson and the ConservaDems, who will try their best to please their contributors and friends (Ben Nelson ran an insurance company, incidentally) by stopping anything meaningful.

Centrist Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) is under attack from an advertising campaign that criticizes his opposition to President Obama’s healthcare plan.

The Web and direct-mail ads specifically take on Nelson for opposing Obama’s proposal to create a public health insurance program consumers could choose instead of private plans. The $10,000 ad campaign is paid for by Change Congress, an advocacy group that is calling for publicly financed elections.

The Change Congress ads charge that Nelson’s opposition to a public health insurance plan is linked to campaign funds he has received from health insurance groups. Citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the ads say Nelson has accepted $2 million from health insurance companies over three Senate campaigns.

Taken alone, a $10,000 ad buy, even in Nebraska, won't do much. In combination, only a sustained assault on the status quo from all advocacy groups will get reform of this type done. That's just an historical fact. And while it's welcome that the President will deploy the Organizing for America email list for health care, it's going to take progressives concerned about the policy details to drive the discussion.

...Keep pushing...

Earlier this month, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) declared that he was against including a public option in health care reform, calling it a “deal breaker.” But Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reports that in a meeting with health care advocates in Nebraska yesterday, Nelson said that he was open to including a public plan:

Nelson, according to two people in the room, told the group that he was open to a public option, the primary Democratic goal of reform and anathema to conservatives.

“The good news for all sides involved is that he’s open mined,” said Barry Rubin, the former Executive Director for the Nebraska Democratic Party, who was in the meeting. “He’s not closed minded about a public option.”

Nelson's afraid of his constituents. Good place for progressives to have him.

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