De-linking an American Myth

There are so many thinright-winggs wrong with the current conversation on Health Care Reform that it makes it difficult to catch a whiff of civility on the topic. Most of the problems come from good old fashioned ignorance. Why do we continue to see this debate more in mythic terms than fact-based? It’s enough to make this Cajun country economist round up a few alligators to go after her blue dog pols. This reform should save the country and businesses beaucoups bucks if done right. Every other industrialized/advanced nation has gone before us! There are examples we can learn from! Most of them include way more provider choice than we have now!

Still, all we get are canards of epic proportion. Moses did not come down from the Mount with employer based insurance programs inscribed on the tablets. We can do much better! The continuing screed from the right claiming that a single payer insurance option is complete nationalization of the delivery system that will lead to huge wait times and ice floe ends for the elderly is probably the most obvious example of making policy based on myth rather than common sense and data.

I continue to have to remind people that while that story about some one’s Aunt Sally that died in Canada while awaiting hip replacement surgery is touching, it is an anecdote. Anecdotes are just specific data points in a population that may or may not be representative of what goes on for the most part within that population. You need a database to get the complete picture. That explanation even gives the anecdote the benefit of being true since many are just those viral things passed around the internet as urban myths. One data point is not the proper reference for any kind of policy decision. Try, however, to tell that to the general population and some depressingly dim witted pol like the majority of mine from Louisiana.

There are so many myths surrounding the health care debate that Nancy Pelosi has sent fact sheets to Democratic Congress critters to help them fight off the disinformation. (Yeah, like people are going to take THAT source as the best messenger for the program. What’s her approval rating? Some where in vpResident Evil range?)

House speaker Nancy Pelosi returned home to San Francisco this weekend carrying a red, white and blue pocket card that will help guide her through the August recess. The card lists talking points she hopes will convince everyday Americans of the benefits they could receive under the health-care reform plan she hatched with other House Democrats last week.

Pelosi distributed the cards to all 256 of her caucus members, arming the unruly Democratic majority for battle in their disparate districts across the country. After laboring for weeks in Washington to reach a compromise between liberal and conservative factions of her caucus, Pelosi is taking the fight outside the Beltway, where polls show that her popularity is faltering. She plans to stump for health-care reform in San Francisco, Denver and other cities.

At stake is legislation that could define her legacy as speaker and shape President Obama’s political future. Pelosi called health-care reform with a public insurance option “the issue of an official lifetime.”

“August will be a month of inoculation against the negative message of the insurance industry,” Pelosi said in an interview, resting in a yellow armchair in her stately office, which has sweeping views of the Mall. “It will be a month of education in terms of what is in our bill. It will be a month of communication — listening, listening, listening to what constituents have to say.”

In this particular debate, I’m not sure we need to listen to everything constituents have to say because they’re getting their data from viral email anecdotes and TV infomercials from the insurance industry. I’d say it’s more about at looking at what the facts on the ground say and helping constituents make sense of what various options with health care reform would mean to the American people. We need to debunk the myth that we have this great functioning system now. We also need to de-link from the US pathology that makes our health care system unique, costly, and deadly.

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