Blog ››› ››› MARCIA KUNTZ
Robert Kuttner was referring to what's "off" about the arguments used against health care reform, but he could just as easily be describing what's missing from the media's coverage of this debate:
Something is severely off when economically stressed Americans confront members of Congress about "death panels" in the Obama health plan. The rumors, fanned by talk radio with a little help from Republicans, are false and even delusional. Yet the anger, if misdirected, is genuine.
People should be plenty angry about their jobs and their mortgages and their health insurance. With health care, however, virtually all of the fears attributed to the Obama health reform efforts more accurately describe the existing private system.
It is private insurance companies that ration care by deciding what is covered and what is not. Private plans limit which doctor and hospital you can use, define "preexisting conditions" and make insurance unaffordable for tens of millions. For many, all this can cause suffering and sometimes even death. Our one oasis of socialized medicine, Medicare, has the most choice and the least exclusion.
The apparent ignorance of the reality of health care on the part of a significant portion of the public is understandable. Many in the media, giving legitimacy to demagogically driven claims that the Democrats want to legislate "death panels" and even sacrifice Grandma, are committing malpractice in their reporting on the current state of health care. They have grossly distorted the debate -- pushing the issue of whether rationing will occur under a new system, while ignoring the fact that it is currently rampant; refusing to cover real-life evidence of insurance company malfeasance. Perhaps most egregiously, they have obfuscated the truth and willfully refused to challenge public plan option opponents with a simple fact: Medicare is a public plan.