I know I'm suddenly overposting after weeks of no posting after weeks of little posting, but I wanted to toss a little bit of politics/public policy stuff up here. Hooray?
Anyway, there are a number of alarming statements being propagated about the health care bill bouncing around Congress that are false, and I wanted to spread the word in case [you] are confronted by someone who has been alarmed by an alarming falsehood. This largely comes from Salon.com's excellent piece on the subject. I understand also that the White House plans to put together a website modeled on candidate Obama's Fight The Smears site from last summer/fall.
ALARMING CONTENTION: This is socialized medicine, or a single-payer health care system.
ACTUAL SITUATION: It is neither. This is not proposing a British-style system (or for that matter, a Veterans Health Administration-style system), where the government is the sole employer and provider of health care services. Nor is it a Canadian-style single-payer system wherein the government is the only insurer. The bill, broadly put, is intended by supporters of health care reform to do two things: 1. get everybody insured either through private plans or an optional government plan; 2. to reform health insurance practices to improve care. Something to keep in mind is that we are already paying for government-(and rising-premium-)subsidized health care for the poor. It's called the emergency room, and it's way more expensive than getting people some basic preventative services and some occasional prescriptions.
ALARMING CONTENTION: The bill outlaws private insurance.
ACTUAL SITUATION: The bill requires that private insurance plans be sold through a health care marketplace designed to increase competition and help consumers find the best option for them.
ALARMING CONTENTION: The health care bill will spend tax dollars for abortions.
ACTUAL SITUATION: One version of the bill includes measures for paying for preventative care and screening, which may be provided by Planned Parenthood (who are emphatically NOT just about abortions, though a lot of people assume they are). The Hyde Amendment of 1976 prevents any Federal money from being spent on abortions.
ALARMING CONTENTION: The bill will force the elderly to forgo treatment and consider assisted suicide.
ACTUAL SITUATION: This is the one, along with the abortion bit, that I've heard the most of in the alarming rhetoric these last few weeks. It is not true. The bill would require that plans pay for end-of-life consultation if asked for by the patient. Many elderly patients do not have health care directives indicating what they would like to have happen at the end of their life if they are incapacitated and unable to voice their wishes. As such, a lot of time and money is spent keeping terminally ill patients nominally alive. As it is now, Medicare does not pay for patients to consult with their doctors to craft a directive. The bill is aimed at fixing this. Honestly, I feel like this part of the bill, more than anything, is something anyone this side of Bill Frist's cohort in the Terry Schiavo case should support. It reduces waste and is humane, giving the individual some choice in how much they do or do not want done to keep them barely alive.
Anyway, check out the Salon bit above, and if someone is repeating one of these stories, politely challenge them. Calm exchange of information is always preferable in a debate to, well, everything we've seen this week at the town hall meetings.
Also, check out the series of personal stories entitled "The View From Your Sickbed" that Andrew Sullivan's been posting.