Friday, August 7, 2009

Stay Away From My Medicare

The recent anger expressed at townhall meetings across the country over healthcare reform has been sparked by a rise in disinformation and misunderstanding regarding the healthcare system. The Washington Post reports (July 28, 2009),
At a recent town-hall meeting in suburban Simpsonville, a man stood up and told Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) to "keep your government hands off my Medicare."

"I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,' " Inglis recalled. "But he wasn't having any of it."
Most baby boomers have grown up in a United States in which services like Medicare have been a part of daily life. Some of these individuals likely do understand the nature of the program (essentially a single payer healthcare system). Other protest for different reasons.

In a recent NY Times editorial, economist Paul Krugman argued that certain feelings may be contributing to the 'outrage' (August 6, 2009):
That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.
And cynical political operators are exploiting that anxiety to further the economic interests of their backers.
Does this sound familiar? It should: it’s a strategy that has played a central role in American politics ever since Richard Nixon realized that he could advance Republican fortunes by appealing to the racial fears of working-class whites.
The protesters conflate racial fears, market ideology, and personal feelings. Even as economists have demonstrated that the healthcare marketplace cannot fulfill the basic requirements of a competitive market, voters continue to support the status quo.

Ironically most healthcare is paid for by the taxpayer. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services demonstrate:

As in 1994 the healthcare debate has become less about significant policy change and reform of a broken system than about politics, unfounded fears and anxieties (though more insidious now than then), and a desire to ignore reality.

Michael Shusterman is the Editor in Chief of TuftScope (2009 - 2010).
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