Here comes the opposition to health reform, right on cue and right back to scare tactics

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Dedicated to affordable, quality healthcare and coverage for all Americans.

By Consumers Union on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

As leaders gather Thursday in the White House to flesh out proposals to get more Americans affordable health coverage, they’ll be greeted in part by a Bronx cheer – a new round of radio and TV ads aimed at defeating their work.

Conservatives for Patients Rights announced plans this week for up to a $20 million ad campaign to oppose emerging efforts by the Administration to get our government more involved in lowering health costs and getting more Americans covered, according to Politico’s Jonathan Martin.

Martin reports the first ads go right to the age-old fear tactic of reform — “nationalization” of our healthcare system. “Imagine waking up one day and all your medical decisions are made by a central national board. Bureaucrats decide the treatments you receive, the drugs you take, even the doctors you see,” the radio ad says. Of course, ‘nationalized’ healthcare isn’t being considered by the Administration, or by Senate health leaders, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the opposition.

This voice in the ad is that of Richard Scott, the former director of HCA (The Healthcare Company), which takes its own special place in healthcare history. The company Scott at one time ran paid one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements in US history for systematically bilking the government for healthcare, including padding its Medicare billings by exaggerating how sick their patients really were, and providing kickbacks to doctors for referring patients to their hospitals.

The Department of Justice said in 2003 the total $1.7 billion fine paid by HCA and its affiliates was the largest ever paid in a health fraud investigation at that time, and the most wide-ranging.

Maggie Mahar over at healthbeat.blog reports that Scott was ousted amid the allegations. She also recalls Scott’s philosophy on healthcare from an interview with him: With his mergers and acquisitions background, he would be “doing for hospitals . . .what McDonald’s has done in the food business and what WalMart has done in the retailing business.”

Ironic that someone who headed a company accused of massive fraud, and whose health business model reportedly is cookie-cutter, mass production, could — with a straight face — head a campaign against health reform with a message that it will take away our choices. But there you have it.

While there is plenty to argue with over scare tactic ads of nationalized healthcare, or “Canadian-style” healthcare – which again, are NOT the proposals on the table – most working on reforming healthcare are pursing reform in line with Scott’s group’s overall message of choice, competition, accountability and personal responsibility.

The President’s initial proposal calls for allowing Americans to keep their employer-sponsored health insurance, buy a policy on the open market, or have the choice of a government-sponsored health plan like members of Congress get. These plans would have to compete for customers, who could freely choose amongst them.

And the president recently proposed billions in cost-cutting in existing government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid) by improving efforts to root out fraud and waste, and making private health insurers competitively bid to provide taxpayer-funded healthcare to seniors. And many efforts are underway to encourage Americans to improve their health – diet, stop smoking, etc – through better education and incentives.

No one said improving our healthcare system will be a picnic. But let’s at least give our leaders a chance to develop some proposals that will reign in rising health costs that hurt us all, and help get millions of laid off workers and their families a chance to get coverage. It’s time to drop the scare tactics and bluster, the veiled threats of ‘nationalized’ care, and give change a chance.

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