Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scare Tactics

Nicholas Kristof looks at the new spate of commercials being aired that are designed to instill fear in our hearts about the health care reform being proposed by the Democrats and President Obama.

Back in the election campaign, some people spread rumors that Barack Obama might be a secret Muslim conspiring to impose Sharia law on us. That seems unlikely now, but what if he’s a covert Canadian plotting to impose … health care?

Rick Scott, a former hospital company chief executive, leads a group called Conservatives for Patients’ Rights. He was forced to resign as C.E.O. after his company defrauded the government through overbilling and is now spending his time trying to block meaningful health care reform by terrifying us with commercials of “real-life stories of the victims of government-run health care.”


[Y]ou should know that Mr. Scott’s public relations initiative against health reform is led by the same firm that orchestrated the “Swift boat campaign” against Senator John Kerry in 2004. These commercials are just as false, for President Obama is not proposing government-run health care — just a public insurance element in the mix.

No doubt there are some genuine horror stories in Canada, as there are here in the United States.

But the bottom line is that America’s health care system spends nearly twice as much per person as Canada’s (building the wealth of hospital tycoons like Mr. Scott). Yet our infant mortality rate is 40 percent higher than Canada’s, and American mothers are 57 percent more likely to die in childbirth than Canadian ones.

The biggest fears the insurance companies — and the Republicans — have are that reformed and improved health care will work too well; that costs will go down, efficiency will improve, and both of them will look bad by comparison: the insurance companies are too ossified in their methods and kickbacks to take on competition, and the Republicans will, as William Kristol noted in 1993, suffer because it will make the Democrats look like they’re actually doing something the public wants and needs. We can’t have that, now can we?