8/02/2009

Insurance Lobby Media Strategy: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

By Jamie York

Bill Clinton told columnist Joe Klein that the biggest mistake he made with his health care reform proposal was his support for universal coverage (Time, 8/10/09, p. 35.). The insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists were ruthless and had a well-directed campaign against universal coverage. Clinton was blindsided and had thought he had no choice but to cower and try to sneak away from the fight as the lobbyists got their message across in the media while the voices of single payer advocates were drowned out. While Clinton may think that advocating single payer insurance was a mistake, I think it was his finest hour. His mistake was not that he supported single payer, but that he failed to stand up for single payer as logical and viable. He didn’t even try to fight the insurance lobby. “Hillary, “ he cried, “help me Hillary!” And so the insurance industry reformed itself and “managed care” came into being. At that time there were 33 million people without health coverage and today there are 47 million. So much for reform.

Today, as we witness the political fight over Obama’s health reform plan, it is clear that the insurance company lobbyists do not want any health care reform. Period. These companies pay out millions to get their point of view heard in the mass media, using any scare tactics they can think of. They are against Obama’s plan because they may lose some of their profits if the government insurance option turns out to be better and more affordable than their profit taking system. Obama, while admitting that single payer makes the most sense, turned against his senses and decided to play politics and get what he can get.

I am glad that the American colonists did not simply decide to get what they could get from the British occupiers. They declared their independence and fought for what they wanted. We don’t have the fight in us anymore, I guess. We send our kids off to die in foreign nations while the military contractors reap millions in profits. We sit and watch TV as one constitutional right after another is systematically rendered obsolete by imperial presidents like George W. Bush. We watch events unfold in news soundbytes not in in-depth discussion. If even half of us one day decided to skip work until we have single payer health care, we would have it. No question about it. Compared with the 19th and 20th century fight for better wages, shorter workdays, and for the right to organize labor unions, a general strike is about as American as you can get. Political divisions keep us from communicating and organizing, but when we get to the point where we see ourselves as human beings in a common struggle for things that make sense, for programs that work for the common good and general welfare, then we will begin to communicate with each other. There comes a point where the common good of the people must take precedence over unregulated profit taking. Health care is a birthright.

The insurance company lobby money is paying for a major PR campaign now under way to scare gullible seniors into thinking that the government will have them put to death if they have a terminal illness. This line is being spread around by the conservative bloggers and radio and TV hosts -- the usual unreliable suspects in the media. The truth is that Obama has called for more openness in discussing end of life wishes with doctors. Few people make their wishes known in living wills because the end of life options are just not discussed routinely now as they should be. Again, it is just common sense to be prepared so that your family is aware of your wishes, but the insurance lobby is using the old media formula that keeps Americans in tow time and time again -- repetition, repetition, repetition. If you tell a lie often enough and loud enough, it will soon be accepted as the truth. We are so gullible it is pathetic.

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