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Scare Tactics 101: Use the Word “Socialism”

reaganDespite widespread support for a government insurance option, the President may be backing down from his commitment to the “public plan.”

Or rather, he is willing to consider reform packages that don’t include a public option. 

Mr. Obama would prefer to see a bipartisan bill get through Congress, rather than demand that a public insurance option be included in the package.

News Flash: The chance that Congress passes bipartisan healthcare legislation this year is close to nil.

Republican legislators are unlikely to ever sign onto a reform package proposed by their Democratic colleagues. 

  • House Republican leader John Boehner (R-OH) said on Friday that he was unaware of any House Republican inclined to support the Democrats’ proposed legislation.
  • When asked how many Senate Republicans could sign on to developing Democratic plans, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said: “I think right now, none.  Zero.”

Republicans don’t want to aid an effort that the Democrats will take credit for in the future. 

But they also differ on the core issues at the heart of reform.

  • According to this article, Republicans would rather tinker with the existing system than make substantial changes. 
  • Translation: They favor making slight changes to a system that pays handsome salaries to industry CEOs while leaving nearly 50 million uninsured people out in the cold. 
  • Even more outrageous: They continue to stay the course despite the fact that:
  1. They lost big during the last election, and 
  2. The American people clearly favor a healthcare overhaul.

When it comes to explaining their position on the public plan, or healthcare reform generally, congressional Republicans repeat the same tired mantras and ideologically unsound arguments that we’ve heard for years.

“A public plan will mean the end of personal choice since private insurers will be driven out of business,” they claim.  “Healthcare reform means more government-intrusion into our lives.  Get ready for socialized medicine.”

So where did the term, “socialized medicine,” come from and what does it mean?

The American Medical Association (AMA) actually invented this term during the early decades of the 1900s.  The term helped to defeat FDR’s efforts to include health care legislation in the 1935 Social Security package. 

The AMA has used the phrase since to oppose any government (or private) health plan that they do not like.  At one point the AMA said that Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) were a form of socialized medicine.

In the 1960’s, they hired then-famous actor, Ronald Reagan, to produce a 10-minute recording about the dangers of a newly proposed program, now known as Medicare.

The recording was played at coffee socials (“clatches”) that the AMA organized as a part of its campaign “Operation CoffeeCup.” 

The purpose of the campaign? To convince the American people this new “socialist” program would lead to a form of totalitarian government.

Here is one of Reagan’s most memorable lines from the program:

“One of the traditional methods of imposing state-ism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.  It is very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.”

You can listen to the full recording here

Some policy analysts argue that the phrase “socialized medicine” doesn’t really mean anything anymore due to its overuse by the AMA.  

But the term still scares many people.  Many folks view socialism as a threat to our capitalistic way of life.

In reality, there is a huge difference between a truly socialized medical system and the public insurance option that the Democrats are proposing.

The one legitimate use of the term “socialized medicine” is:

  1. A government-operated health system, where the government owns the hospitals and hires the staff- physicians, nurses, administrators, in addition to paying the medical bills.

The public plan, on the other hand, would simply establish a government-financed, insurance option that could compete with private insurers and help to cover the uninsured.  Medical providers would continue to be private entities.

Check back tomorrow for more Scare Tactics 101.

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