To its credit, the Record-Eagle periodically publishes extensive analyses by FACTCHECK.ORG which examine various claims by members of both ends of the political spectrum. They bend over backwards to be scrupulously neutral and balanced. Recently, two FACTCHECK articles were published on the same day which touched on two themes I’ve been considering for this blog. So I will comment on both here.
The first fact check dealt with a viral blog claim that “Obamacare Provisions Will Allow ‘Forced Home Inspections’”. This is but one of the many falsehoods that have been circulated about “Obamacare”. After analyzing the facts, the article rated this canard “Pants on Fire.”
Which brings me to my observation and question. I have both liberal and conservative friends who forward to me the various emails which they have received and I also directly receive emails from both ends of the political spectrum. I have observed that many of the liberal screeds are strident in tone. But that’s not particularly surprising given the state of politics today, and there usually is some factual basis for the communication. What is surprising is how many of the conservative screeds are simply and totally false.
There clearly is a cottage industry out there – people who dream up complete fabrications about Obama and the Democrats – and shoot them out to the blogosphere. And often a lot of imagination and energy goes into them. The frauds have a professsional feel to them. My favorite example is the photocopy of a supposed Kenyan birth certificate for Obama. It sure looked genuine, but it was counterfeit. Sometimes mainstream Republican politicians parrot the lies – “death panels for seniors” is a classic example.
So I am curious: Is my experience unique? Am I just missing a passel of professionally scripted big lies circulated by the left? Is it simply that I’ve been targeted by the right as gullible and ignorant while the left hasn’t figured that out yet? Let me know what you think.
The second fact check involved a claim by Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah that “Unions say [Obamacare] is bad for workers.” As I started the article I thought this would earn another “Pants on Fire” rating. But it turns out that three of the larger unions in the country (the Teamsters, the United Food and Commercial International Union and Unite-Here, which represents hotel workers) in fact oppose Obamacare. So Senator Lee’s claim was rated “Mostly True.”
When I thought about this a little more, I recalled some history about health insurance in this country. The fact-check article spurred my memory by noting that if affordable subsidized health insurance is readily available outside of employment, “maybe [union] workers would have less reason to belong to the union.” If you ever wondered why the Democrats could push through things like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare when they had overwhelming majorities under Roosevelt and Johnson, but not a universal government health insurance program covering all Americans, you have part of the answer. Labor unions did not want it because health insurance was an attractive benefit they could negotiate for their members. And labor unions are a major constituency of the Democratic Party.
I am on Medicare with an inexpensive AARP supplement. It allows me to choose my doctor and works wonderfully. My firm’s private coverage, which I used before I turned 65, did not work wonderfully. It seems that half of my claims were intially denied for bogus reasons. I was not covered except when using a hospital or physician “in-network”, an inconvenience, to put it mildly, when I was not in Southeastern Michigan. I once went to Munson Hospital with a life-threatening condition (a perforated colon). Munson was in-network and emergency treatment was supposedly covered by the private insurance. Yet the cost of physician care I received over my five day stay was initially denied by the private insurer because the attending emergency room physician was not in-network!
No one denies that Obamacare is a complex and cumbersome system which ultimately relies on healthy young people signing up for insurance. No one denies that Medicare reimbursements are lower than many private insurance reimbursements and reduce the nation’s health care bill. No one denies that Medicare administrative costs are significantly lower than the average for private insurance. No one should deny the obvious cost savings if medical providers had only one set of standards and forms to deal with. No politician of note is urging us to nationalize the health care delivery system along Great Britain’s model.
No one can deny that the uninsured receive the most inefficient and expensive health care in the world by going to emergency rooms for routine medical issues, and that this expense is passed on to all of us. No one can deny that the addition of young and healthy people to the Medicare rolls would substantially reduce the per-person outlays by the system which now insures the often sick elderly.
And, finally, no one can deny that as a nation we will inevitably pay a substantial amount of dollars for health care. The question is whether it will be paid through personal outlays, private health insurance premiums, taxes, and/or Medicare premiums. Either way, we gotta pay the piper.
Yet, despite these truths, not one politician of any weight dared suggest simply expanding Medicare to everyone as an alternative to the Republican-inspired Obamacare. (Don’t forget that Obamacare is modeled after Conservative think-tank proposals and Romney’s Massachusetts plan.) An unholy combination of labor union hostility or indifference, fierce insurance company opposition, some doctors who fear a decline in income and right-wing ideologues who see a Socialist under every bush has prevented us from adopting a rational, efficient and affordable system for providing health insurance to all Americans.