Julie Sneider
The View From Here

Beware of health reform scare tactics

By - Oct 18th, 2010 04:00 am

Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch. Photo courtesy candidate’s website.

Republican candidates Rebecca Kleefisch and Ron Johnson have joined the Tea Party’s anti-health reform chorus by describing their Democratic opponents as champions of a “government takeover of the finest health care system in the world.”

Johnson, the millionaire Oshkosh businessman running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, goes so far as to say the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the “greatest assault ever” on his American freedoms and the reason for his Senate campaign.

GOP U.S. Senate primary candidates Ron Johnson (left) and Dave Westlake at a June 21, 2010 debate in Brookfield. Photo courtesy WisPolitics via Flickr.

Both Johnson and Kleefisch, the Republican candidate for Wisconsin lieutenant governor, have used personal stories to explain how they believe that health reform law will destroy America’s health system.

In her latest television ad, Kleefisch praises the medical care she received in her recent and successful fight against cancer. In debates with Feingold and on the campaign trail, Johnson tells the story of life-saving surgery his daughter received years ago at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Kleefisch and Johnson use their positive encounters with Wisconsin medical providers as reasons for opposing federal health reform. The big hand of federal government, the candidates’ argument goes, will destroy the world’s finest health system and keep Wisconsinites from getting the medical care they deserve.

Photo by Ano Lobb via Flickr.

No one should dispute Kleefisch and Johnson’s sincerity  — both candidates have faced very serious medical issues in their families, and a positive outcome is the best anyone would hope for. There’s also no disputing that Wisconsin ranks among the highest in the nation when it comes to quality medical care.

However, these candidates’ descriptions of what health reform means for the rest of us have been misleading and, at times, just plain false. Kleefisch’s slam against a government role in health care is hypocritical because the cancer care she praises so highly was covered by the state-supported health plan that her husband, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, gets as a government lawmaker

Johnson and Kleefisch’s scary warnings against “socialized medicine” are examples of the provocative rhetoric so common in Tea Party politics. While the candidates’ intentions may be to win elections, their distortion of what the reform law will do does nothing to improve the lives of millions of Americans who can’t afford access to medical care.

America may be tops in the world for health care spending, but for all that money we aren’t No. 1 in life expectancy. Researchers at Columbia University reported just last week that, because the U.S. health care system is riddled with problems, Americans live shorter, less healthy lives than people from other wealthy industrialized nations.

The study compares U.S. health care spending and life expectancy rates with those in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. All 12 other countries have universal insurance coverage, but the design of their health care systems varies.

Over the past 30 years, health care costs have gone up in all the countries, but they rose much faster in America. At the same time, U.S. life expectancy rates increased by a much smaller margin than rates in other countries.

“Even as health care spending per capita has increased in the U.S. over the last three decades, the nation has fallen behind 12 other wealthy nations in 15-year survival for men and women ages 45 and 65,” wrote the Commonwealth Fund, which paid for the study.

The researchers speculated that the United States’ deteriorating life expectancy  has more to do with the health care system itself. The system’s emphasis on fee-for-service care, its preference for highly specialized medicine over primary and preventive care, and a lack of coordination among health care services and providers all add up to higher spending without better health.

“The findings undercut critics who might argue that the U.S. health care system is not in need of major changes,” the study’s authors wrote in the national magazine Health Affairs.

They conclude that the new reform law begins to address these problems by expanding insurance to everyone (all Americans must have insurance by 2014), improving access to primary care, and ensuring that primary and specialty medical services are coordinated to reduce medical errors and wasteful spending.

It’s clear that the U.S. health system isn’t perfect. Although the new health reform law also lacks perfection, the political rhetoric of Tea Partiers Kleefisch and Johnson only confuses and scares voters.

Such tactics might win votes, but they fail to generate the kind of serious, bipartisan ideas that are necessary to mend America’s not-so-fine health system.

(photo credit: lead image photo by Urban Spaceman via flickr, CC Licensed.)

0 thoughts on “The View From Here: Beware of health reform scare tactics”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Your facts are hyper-partisan at best, we as Americans include deaths at birth in our life expectancy, Europeans do not. Thus they have a skewed life expectancy. Americans have player major roles in some 80% in the most important medical advances in the last three decades (Cato Institute data.) Here are a few more facts for Wisconsinites: One million Brits are awaiting admission to government-run hospitals at any given time, shortages result in the cancellation of some 100,000 operations every year (population a quarter of ours) New Zealanders experience the same. Swedes can wait for heart surgery up to twenty five weeks, and 800,000 Canadians are on a waiting list. These stats come from Michael D. Tanner, “The Mythology of Health Care Reform.” Hows that Hopey Changey garbage doing for you? Are you one of the one in ten who ARE OUT OF WORK? Julie Sneider is a FN liar, plain and simple, right Julie (nose extending outward)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Julie, It would be laughable if not so sad that the intellectual dishonesty contained in your article could be confused as being journalistic by some. Journalism… lol, it sure doesn’t hold that gravitas when refered to does it? Wake up to the truth already. There no longer are’gate keepers’ of “the news”. The days of talking heads, or editors belching out words for the general public to digest are over. Those who are not interested in a topic have tuned out long ago into cable tv, magazines, or whatever. Those who are interested and engaged are like zONER here.. more than capable to gain information, but more important share the information with others. Your article has more holes than I care to take to task, instead I choose to agree that “the new health reform law also lacks perfection”. The bipartisan ideas that you crave for are hovering around 70% right now in the polls to repeal/replace the strictly partisan bill shoved down our throats. Obama could have gone to the middle and listened to his base and the public after the Scott Brown election (can anyone say referendum??), now the very near and dear Russ Fingold is going to be ousted. This isn’t scare tactics gain votes this is voters aligning with who they agree with and if you had stopped using your bellybutton for a porthole you may have noticed this prior to two weeks before an election! It appears that we will have to wait until Nov. 3rd to begin to mend.. after all that is what you want, isn’t it?

  3. Anonymous says:

    What I find interesting is that even though you call for “bipartisan ideas”, this may arguably be one of the most bias articles I have ever read on this sight. And that is saying something.

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