Prescription for a Real Healthcare Debate

How Corporate Media Have Ruined the Health Care Debate

The debate about health reform is clearly in critical condition,
with the prospects for President Barack Obama's proposed "public
option" looking increasingly uncertain. The U.S. is the only
industrialized nation where insurance for primary healthcare is largely
in the hands of private corporations, but despite overwhelming public
support for a greater government role in health insurance, pundits are
now advising us that even Obama's modest proposal of making private
insurance corporations compete with a public insurance fund may have to
be scrapped.

Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.) -- the politician
who played one of the most powerful roles in shaping this debate --
would seem at first blush an unlikely man to diagnose the ailments
afflicting our health reform debate.

After all, many people will recall that when several doctors asked at a recent Senate hearing why "Medicare-for-all" --
a reform option that many citizens and healthcare professionals see as
the best tool for fixing healthcare -- was not on the table, Baucus
responded by asking for more police.

Yet as the NYT reported, Baucus has since:

that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system,
or a 'single-payer plan,' not because he supports it but because doing
so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama's proposal
of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most
liberal position.

all, what better way to diffuse the fearmongering about Obama's plan
being a "Trojan horse" for the right's favorite boogeyman --
"socialized" medicine -- than provide the public with accurate
information on Medicare-for-all and its benefits? After all, a
single public fund that would provide all Americans with healthcare
coverage, much like Medicare currently provides for seniors, is
seen by many experts as the most effective way of achieving the goals
of healthcare reform: reducing costs while expanding coverage.

better way to counter the pundits' insistence that Obama "compromise"
with industry-backed politicians than by pointing out that the "public
option" is already a serious compromise, given that most citizens and
physicians actually favor "single-payer" -- a more comprehensive and progressive option. After all, a recent New York Times/CBS poll (1/11-15/09)
found that 59 percent of respondents said they would prefer that"the
government in Washington provide national health insurance," rather
than leaving health insurance to private industry. Meanwhile a recent
survey (Annals of Internal Medicine, 4/1/08) found that 59 percent of physicians also support single-payer.

Of course, the insurance lobbies and many politicians have never wanted to talk about single-payer.

it is largely the media's fault that Obama's plan has come to be seen
as the most liberal position in the debate. For the corporate media has long shut single-payer and its advocates out of the discussion.

A recent study by
FAIR found that of hundreds of stories about healthcare in major
outlets earlier this year, only five stories included the views of
advocates of single-payer -- none of which appeared on the TV networks.

more than ever, it is crucial that the public have information about
the full range of options for healthcare reform -- including Medicare-for-all.

That is why the media watch group FAIR, filmmaker Michael Moore, former MSNBC host Phil Donahue, Harvard medical professors David Himmelstein and Stephanie Woolhandler and Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program, Obama's longtime physician David Scheiner, actors Mike Farrell, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association are calling onto the TV networks to include single-payer in their coverage of healthcare reform.

can read their letter to ABC, CBS and NBC -- and add your voice to this
effort to bring about the broad debate on reform options that is so
essential to fixing the broken U.S. healthcare system -- here:

Tuesday, July 28th, FAIR, Physicians for a National Health Program, Healthcare
Now!, Code Pink, the Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition and the
Raging Grannies will be delivering this message to the NYC offices of
ABC News -- the network that disinvited Obama's longtime physician from its recent healthcare forum where he'd been planning on asking a question about Medicare-for-all.

A version of this article appeared on Alternet.

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