Obama the Gozerian: The Healthening

It isn't news that the right is a big fan of scare tactics. They've been doing it for decades, all the way back to HUAC and well beyond. "Abortion will kill the next Einstein" and "Iraq has WMD" and "teenage sex will destroy America" and "same-sex marriage will destroy the sacred institution of marriage", and so on, and on and on and on*.

So that's the framing element with which I'd like to approach this: Non-Americans used as fodder in American health-care debate.

See what they did there? Go and find the most unfavourable outcomes you can find in someone else's system, and compare them to the most favourable outcomes you can find in the one you want to preserve. I'm pretty sure that's Chapter One of the Change-Is-Bad tactical manual, issued as part of the standard kit of a right-wing pundit (along with a Bible with all the icky compassionate bits edited out, Joe McCarthy's biography, and a selection of Rush Limbaugh's most hateful best transcripts).

The outcomes experienced by Ms. Spall and Ms. Brickell are very real. I have no doubt that there are similar stories available from Canada, France, New Zealand, wherever there is government-sponsored health care (note that each of those nations has a somewhat different plan - single-payer is by no means a monolithic concept), and they are tragic, and should be addressed within those systems.

However, I have similar lack of doubt that one could find a huge number of people in the United States who've had similar horror stories. Ms. Brickell's heartbreaking story of terminal cervical cancer, undetected because of pig-headed insistence that young women don't need Pap smears - does this sound like something that might ever happen under current US health-care provisions? Like, say, an HMO refusing to cover certain types of test because the HMO says it's unnecessary?

Nah...that'd never happen with the sparkling wonderful American health-care system, which the insurance providers (who, I'm sure coincidentally, make literally billions of dollars a year off it) say is the best in the world, right? Riiiiight.

Looks like an impressive list of links I ran off, yes? I found them in two minutes of Googling, and only looking for HMO stories - let alone general bad health stories, and the millions who never see a doctor at all, and whose stories therefore never get told.

But y'know what? The plural of "anecdote" isn't "data". This is, as so often before, yet another red herring dangled in front of the media and their audiences by those who are so desperate not to give up their money and privilege. None of these stories can really be used to provide informed, intelligent debate about the topic: they're meant to distract us from informed, intelligent debate.

If only the media weren't so gaspingly desperate for scarlet fish.

* I'm using American examples here, as those are the ones that Shakers in general are likely to be familiar with, but it's not hard to find similar examples in right-wing parties just about anywhere or anywhen. The main thrust is "the future is bad and scary, let's do it the way our grandfathers/our forebears/some guys who lived in a desert five thousand years ago/just about anyone but a lefty did it!" Lather, rinse, repeat as many times as it takes to get people to vote for no more taxes/remove sex education funding/factory-kill a few million people/start a war. The left isn't above using the tactic either, but the focus tends to be on "If we don't stop doing it the way we/our grandfathers/forebears/ancient desert-dwellers always did, we'll never stop getting the results we always have". See feminism, atheism, civil rights, pro-choice, environmentalism, et c..

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