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Roe offers scare tactics on single-payer health care

Judy Garland, Community Voices • Oct 3, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Before his Aug. 25 newsletter, I don’t recall Rep. Phil Roe making any detailed argument against single-payer health insurance. Now he’s out with a long paragraph running it down. Fact is, the Republican Party is beginning to run scared, with for-profit health insurance corporations worrying about their future role. They have reason.

Public consensus is building around the idea that, yes, the federal government should backstop health insurance for all, and regulate corporate healthcare business. Polling results when people are asked about “Medicare for All” now show 63 percent favorable, higher than ever, back far as I remember. The surge of support arises from an energized younger generation. To them the concept makes sense. How will the likes of Roe try to stop this trend? Like always. Scare tactics and untruth.

They may not trot out their socialism/communism routine so much this time (but fringe groups will). None of that in Roe’s newsletter, but opening with his usual misleading trashing of Obamacare, he gets right down to business. The COST, oh merciful heavens! The COST! Many studies on Medicare for All have shown our country could save trillions long term (and have better health) by providing everyone coverage.

Roe counters with estimates from, and links to, fearsome headlines he’s found somewhere. Headlines like “Medicare for All could cost $32.6 trillion.” He doesn’t disclose that his “evidence” comes from the Mercatus Center, where Charles Koch sits as board member and has supported with more than $9 million dollars. The Koch brothers, being far-edge extreme, simplistically claim the function of U.S. government is national defense, leaving most everything else (healthcare, education, the environment, infrastructure, etc) to whatever the market can conveniently bear.

For the Mercatus Center, the goal was to get out scary headlines, and only selected parts of their study, to newspapers and other media far and wide. For people like Roe to then broadcast around. Their experts show how they’ll richly prosper that way, at the expense of our environment and quality of life.

Our own Wendell Potter, once Cigna Insurance’s VP in charge of spin, says the immediate goal, when trying to derail a threat, is to widely spread scary headlines. Further, Wendell points out what Roe doesn’t tell us and perhaps may not even know. A thorough and complete reading of the Mercatus study reveals the researchers themselves found Medicare for All would be a far better deal than what we have now — that Medicare for All would, everything considered, cost trillions less than our current system. Wendell sums it this way: “ ... it would save businesses money, raise wages, create savings for families, cut administrative cost in half, and save hundreds of billions in prescription drug costs.”

He knows which Republican tactics to expect this time around because people in his previous job learned well the method and advantages of confusion.

Presenting what he thinks we need to know, Roe begins and ends his paragraph on single-payer with insultingly sloppy statements. At the beginning, he asserts we “know” reforms won’t work, and ends by saying Democrats want to “double down on systems we’ve seen fail around the world.” OK , which ones? Those in economies at all comparable to ours cover everyone, are time-tested and function better, with more effective spending and better outcomes.

Roe claims Congress, and our constantly distracted and distracting president, are working up “fixes” to improve the system. It looks so far like heading for less coverage, and more going along with the complex and overlapping interests of the money grubbers. With changes they’ve gotten so far, some 3 million people have already lost health insurance.

If Roe reads the Johnson City Press, he saw the article which included the Kaiser Family report showing the Kingsport-Bristol area has the highest national percentage of people with qualifying pre-existing conditions, some 41 percent. Because Obamacare tried to end discrimination against them, tens of thousands were able to buy insurance. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s failure to expand Medicaid blocked thousands more.

Though unable so far to overturn Obamacare, Republicans have raised uncertainty, leading to higher premiums, and chipped away at coverage. For-profit insurance lobbies are working hard to renew their discrimination against already sick people. And guess who took the for-profit side. I’m always struck by the hypocrisy of any incumbent with perverted notions of “public interest,’’ while comfortably protected with taxpayer-funded insurance, who dares to block health insurance for others.

On election day, or early voting, consider that Roe’s opponent, Democrat Dr. Marty Olsen, agrees with 63 percent of Americans on working toward universal coverage, and with the 67 percent of Tennesseans favoring Medicaid expansion. As do Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Karl Dean for governor (whose Republican opponent, Bill Lee, has opined as to how the problems of the uninsured should be for charities. Oh, you betcha.) Others with the people include independent Murphey Johnson, opposing Micah Van Huss. As are Democrats Arvil Love (opposite Bud Hulsey), and Nathan Farnor (opposing Matthew Hill).

The above can be clear choices. We go for better systems, simpler and more affordable, or continue enabling the money-driven at getting richer.

Judy Garland of Johnson City is a community health care activist.

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