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!

Generalizations and assumptions like this are a major reason why rigidly ideological leftists like Obama are genuinely mystified at the failure of their ideas and proposals to sweep through and inflame the populace like wildfire. Were Democrats to listen to those they purport to represent, rather than simply relying on that which they “know” to be true, they would know that going after individuals’ health insurers and providers is a losing proposition in this country.

Simple polling shows this to be the case. A July 1 Quinnipiac poll found that 85 percent of Americans are “satisfied” with their health insurance plan, with almost 58 percent of those being “very satisfied.” A June 20 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 77 percent were satisfied with their health care. Further, that same NYT/CBS poll found that 77 percent of insured Americans found health care “affordable.” At the end of May, a Rasmussen poll found that a comparatively paltry 70 percent of Americans rate their health coverage “good” or “excellent.” Much like the Obama “reform” plan has grown less popular as people have found out more about it, Americans’ opinions of their own coverage and care have improved as they have gotten a better look at the government-run alternative.

Further, not only do fewer people than Democrats expect have stories of being “screwed over” by their insurance company, but there are myriad examples of people being denied treatment and care by government-run health care programs and so-called “public options” of the type Obama and his allies wish to implement here. State governments have even gone to court here in the U.S. in an effort to have bureaucrats ruled more competent arbiters of medical decisions than medical professionals themselves.

Pointing out such facts almost invariably elicits the rebuttal “private insurance rations/denies care, too” -- a response that is a complete non-starter as long as the goal posts in the health care reform debate remain where the Democrats laying out the playing field initially put them. The rationale for a government-centric health care overhaul has from the beginning centered on the ability of government to somehow do health care better -- more humanely, more fairly, and more universally -- than the pseudo-free market we currently have. Sadly, empirical evidence shows that such is not the case.

4. Republicans and “opponents of change” are employing scare tactics and peddling misinformation about the cost or contents of the health reform legislation in Congress and about President Obama’s proposal.

This has been the party line for the Democratic National Committee, MoveOn.org, the SEIU, and the Obama administration since opposition to their health care overhaul proposals began to take root among the general population. However, the actions of those pro-ObamaCare organizations -- which amount to employing actual scare tactics and waging a misinformation campaign against those citizens who have turned out at town hall meetings across the country to express their concerns about the proposed health overhaul -- have not been those of victimized policy proponents, but of professional agitators whose only experience dealing with people is as part of smear campaigns and astroturfing efforts, and whose knee-jerk reaction to dissent is to declare it “dangerous” and to quash it.

The information being repeated by opponents of President Obama’s health overhaul proposal comes from cost analyses published by the officially non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and from testimony by CBO director (and joint Nancy Pelosi/Robert Byrd appointee) Doug Elmendorf, as well as from ordinary citizens actually reading the health overhaul bills -- an exercise many in Congress (and the president himself) have turned up their noses at repeatedly.

Publicly stating the contents of legislation, and asking those who will vote on whether that legislation becomes the law of the land, is neither an illegitimate scare tactic nor a misinformation campaign. On the other hand, sending union thugs to threaten protesters, calling on American citizens to turn their fellow men and women in to the government for questioning the president’s policy proposals online or in “casual conversation,” and rallying Democratic supporters by repeatedly and publicly referring to civic-minded citizens as a “dangerous mob” that must be countered and stopped are examples of both scare tactics and misinformation.

It’s just not coming from Republicans, or from those nefarious “opponents of change.”

5. Republicans are preventing health reform from taking place despite the best efforts of President Obama and Democrats in Congress.

The persistence of this myth speaks to both the lack of civics education in our school systems and the prevalence of partisan finger-pointing in the political discourse. The Democratic Party currently has 60 seats in the U.S. Senate -- a filibuster-proof supermajority. If Senate Democrats actually want to pass a health overhaul bill, there is absolutely nothing the few Republicans in that body can do to stop them.

Further, Democrats have a 70-seat advantage in the House of Representatives. As Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) pointed out in July, this means every Republican representative could bring their surviving parents to a House vote and still not have a large enough contingent to defeat the Democrats on any legislation the latter wished to pass.

The Democrats got what they wished for -- total control of Washington, D.C., and of the lawmaking and enforcing branches of government. However, liberals traditionally specialize in owning intentions, not results or consequences, meaning many are having difficulty accepting responsibility for enacting those policies they so steadfastly claim to support.

In the end, Democrats’ problems passing a health care overhaul bill are theirs and theirs alone, as are their problems enacting any other aspects of the sweeping liberal agenda so many of them -- including the president -- campaigned for office on.