Five Myths About Health Care 'Reform'

The debate over health care reform -- what constitutes it and what public opinion of such reform really is -- has become more polarizing as the summer has gone on. Below are five key liberal talking points about health care "reform" and an accompanying dose of truth their peddlers so desperately need to hear.

1. Republicans, who either believe the health care status quo is perfectly acceptable or are in the pockets of lobbyists who pay them to say so, are opposed to the very idea of reform and want to block any effort to fix our health care system.

This is, of course, entirely untrue. Anybody can look at the American health care system -- which is and continues to be the best in the world -- and spot areas that are in need of improvement. Left and right differ in their views of what those problems are and how they are best dealt with. Republicans and conservatives only oppose “reform” outright if the term is limited to meaning the government-centric overhaul that the president and congressional Democrats are pushing.

Actual reform -- a reduction in the dependence on third-party payers, increase in patient choice, reduction of costs, increase in personal freedom and control of health care dollars, added portability of health coverage, and reduced governmental interference -- is almost universally supported on the right.

The two sides also differ in their approach to the other’s ideas. Conservatives look at the left’s proposals for “reform” and argue that -- based on simple mathematics and economics, as well as on the physical evidence provided by states and countries who have already implemented the Democrats’ proposed solutions -- implementing them will only make things worse. Liberals’ knee-jerk reaction to conservative counterproposals is to discard them out of hand because they do not rely on greater government influence and increased regulation to solve the health care system’s issues.

This is followed by accusations that those on the right either favor the status quo or are being paid by lobbyists and “big insurance” to spread the falsehood that “everything is fine” in American health care. The latter deserves no more attention than the brief moment it takes to point out how insulated a worldview is required to believe, as many on the left do, that their proposals and beliefs simply cannot be honestly opposed, and therefore any who publicly disagree with their policies must be getting paid off to do so.

Of course, the right is not defending the status quo in any way, shape, or form in the health care debate. Rather, conservatives are simply offering alternative, market- and individual freedom-friendly solutions while seeking to prevent a fundamental shift in our nation’s economy from being enacted without the relevant legislation even having been read or carefully considered first.

In fact, it is the left that has a recent history of declaring the status quo sufficient during a period of debate over reform. In 2005, when President Bush was pushing a partial privatization of Social Security in order to provide retirees with more control over their retirement dollars and to stave off the program’s looming bankruptcy (Social Security currently sits $20 trillion in the red), Democrats fought tooth-and-nail against the proposed overhaul, citing their belief that the program was not yet in “crisis” and therefore that no action whatsoever was needed.

2. President Obama’s health reform proposal is vastly popular among the people, representing the “collective will” of the American population.

This may be the number one myth driving the left’s passionate defense of their view of health “reform,” and the one which most reinforces their belief that opponents of President Obama’s proposal are in the pockets of Big Insurance or other special interests who pay them well for their active opposition. However, a simple look at public opinion polls will suffice to burst this bubble.

Support for Obama’s health overhaul proposal, which has been declining for months, is only 44 percent of Americans, according to Rasmussen. This is down from 46 percent who supported it in July, which is itself down from 50 percent in June. Further, 53 percent of Americans are now opposed to the Democrats’ “reform” plan that many liberals think represents the “collective will” of the American population.

The fact is, the more time that passes, and the more Americans learn about the Democrat proposal, the less popular it becomes -- a key factor in Obama’s failed effort to rush his “reform” legislation through Congress as quickly as possible.

3. Everybody in America hates their insurance provider and has stories of themselves or someone they know being screwed over by an insurance company.

This assertion is so widely assumed to be true among Democrats that it formed the basis for a significant shift in presidential messaging on health care. Throughout his campaign and the first few months of his presidency, Barack Obama referred almost exclusively to “health care reform.” With fewer Americans supporting the idea of a top-to-bottom overhaul of the health care system, Obama and his fellow Democrats changed tack and went for a target they were certain every American could support fighting: so-called Big Insurance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a public speech in which she referred to HMOs (which, lest we forget, were created by that now-arch-enemy of Big Insurance, Senator Ted Kennedy) as “villains” (though she has said she will not give back the money insurers have given to her campaign over the years), and President Obama himself has replaced the phrase “health care reform” with “health insurance reform.”

The problem with this assumption by Obama and the Democrats is that the sampling they relied on for this messaging shift is about as representative as that Pauline Kael consulted before her famous 1972 declaration that “everybody [she] knew” voted for George McGovern for president!