Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Get real Joe Wilson: alternatives instead of absurdities

“You lie!”

That’s what Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled during President Barack Obama’s speech on health care reform last Wednesday.

But opponents of health care reform are the real liars.

Rep. Wilson’s outburst is just one of many attempts to steer debate away from the merits of reform. By spreading disinformation opponents have scared countless Americans into opposing much-needed reform.

Rep. Wilson shouted down President Obama after he declared that the health care reform proposal before Congress would not cover undocumented immigrants.

Despite Rep. Wilson’s poor manners, Obama was correct in claiming that the House health care reform bill will not provide free health care to undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants are clearly disqualified from government programs included in reform bill. In fact, section 246 is clearly titled “no federal payment for undocumented aliens.”

But health care reform has to overcome more than uneasiness over immigration. Perhaps the most malicious rumor that opponents have circulated is that the House bill will create “death panels” charged with pushing elderly Americans towards euthanasia. Prominent Republicans including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have lent credence to the death panel idea.

When Obama tried to dispel this rumor during his speech, he was greeted with unhappy murmurs from the Republican side of the aisle.

The death panel rumor is an outright lie. No part of the reform bill would require seniors to go before panels empowered to decide their earthly fate. The bill would simply require Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling that many elderly people already choose to attend to alleviate fear and anxiety associated with their final years. Suggesting that this would lead to euthanasia coldheartedly seizes on the fears of seniors.

Many skeptics also argue that reform will lead to a government takeover of health care.   Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers perpetuated the idea at a town hall meeting in Walla Walla last month, claiming that 100 million people would wind up on government-run health care plans.

Again, this isn’t true.

The Congressional Research Service: a nonpartisan branch of Congress: concluded that less than three percent of Americans would choose the government-run “public option” plan. Employer-provided health insurance would still dominate the health care industry.

Despite their absurdity, many Americans have fallen victim to rumors about health care reform.

According to an NBC news poll conducted last month, 55 percent of Americans believe that Obama’s health care plan will give free health care to undocumented immigrants. A similar number think it will lead to a government takeover of health care, while 45 percent think the bill will allow the government to make end-of-life decisions for the elderly.

We need to reshape the debate by moving away from falsehoods and debating the merits of reform.

Here are the facts:

The World Health Organization ranks our health care system as 37th  in the world, well behind Morocco and barely ahead of Slovenia. The U.S. ranks last in preventable deaths among the 20 leading industrialized nations. Our health care costs are increasing at four times the rate of inflation. We are on the path to becoming obese, cancerous and broke.

President Obama’s health care proposal would extend vital care to millions of uninsured Americans, while lowering costs for countless others. It would prevent medical bills from driving thousands of Americans to bankruptcy, and prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to those who need it most.

Opponents of Obama’s reform plan offer no viable alternative. Instead, they insist on spreading falsehoods, questionable statistics and absurdities. A healthy democracy depends on a well-informed public, and American citizens don’t deserve to be lied to. Joe Wilson and his cohorts should be ashamed of themselves.

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