Saturday, March 22, 2014

Playing Politics

Have you seen the new ad from the Republican Noise Machine? It is almost elegant in its simplicity. It is just a woman standing in front of a very simple background plaintively explaining how she doesn't like political ads. "People don’t like political ads.” She says and goes on to decry that health care isn't politics and that facts are facts. “I don’t like them either. But health care isn't about politics, it’s about people. And millions of people have lost their health insurance, millions of people can’t see their own doctors, and millions are paying more and getting less." What follows is a political smear campaign that is most unbelievable in its willful disregard for the truth.

The ad goes on to claim that millions of people have lost their health care and that millions more are paying more for plans that are delivering less. The facts just do not support these claims. There are actually more people insured – not fewer. Pretty much, all the claims made are such laughable misrepresentations that the woman deserves kudos for being able to deliver them straight-faced.

Political fact-checking services such as Politifact and The Washington Post Fact-Checker have repeatedly noted that these claims are misleading at best and outright lies at worst. While it may be true that Americans have had their policies cancelled, this is nothing new. Insurance companies have cancelled policies for time immemorial. The fact is that MORE Americans are insured today than before the law was passed.

As to the claim that people would be unable to see the doctor of their choice, again the claim is highly misleading at best. There are all kinds of reasons why patients are periodically forced to switch doctors; their physicians retire, their insurance drops a doctor from their rolls, their doctors drop them for reasons that have nothing to do with this law. This has also been happening for years. And is not, as claimed, a result of this law.

The claim about seeing increases in their premiums is a masterstroke of deceit. Have premiums increased? Did the sun rise this morning!? Premiums rise every year when looked at in the whole. But the truth is that according to the available data, the rises this year are less than previous years, and about half the average year-on-year increase over the past fifteen years. According to a survey on this topic by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the rise in 2013 was between 3-4% for both individuals and families. The previous year, the rise was between 4-5% and the average for the past fifteen years was between 7-8%; granted, one year is not a trend, but to claim a trend that has been occurring for years is attributable to a new law is just lying.

On the face of it, this commercial is just wrong on all sorts of levels. Politifact has ruled it false on all important points. It is an attempt by a Republican mouthpiece organization to get people to call their representative to pressure them to repeal (they no longer even claim the goal is ‘repeal and replace’) the law. My only problem with this law, in fact, is evident by the talking points that they use.

All of the ‘problems with Obamacare’ are – according to the commercial – are actually attributable not to the law, or even to the political stance behind it. It is, more than anything else, the insurance companies and the for-profit healthcare that we have in this country that is the issue. These problems do not occur in a single-payer system. And the jingoistic claims that “America has the best healthcare in the world” aside, we are far behind most of the industrialized world in the overall healthcare provided to the world. The truth is that our healthcare is only the best in the world if you can afford it. Most can’t.

So before you are swayed by this ad, take a moment to think about what she is saying. If you want to be swayed by the emotion and the politics that she claims to dislike (while being blatantly manipulative and political) then go ahead. No amount of logic and reason can contend with someone who has their emotional switch nailed to a given position. But I implore you not to take anything anyone (including me) tells you at face value. Do your own research!

Wherever you are today, I hope skepticism wins out!

Don Bergquist – March 22, 2014 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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