Health care is a hot issue now, but expect it to get hotter as both sides of the aisle accuse the other of bringing on frightening scenarios which will leave the most vulnerable in our population unprotected if a health disaster should befall them.
According to both Republican and Democratic Chicken Littles, the health care sky will fall if voters bring in the wrong people to run the government.
There is almost nothing scarier for families than the thought that they might not be able to afford the medical treatment they need, and the most vulnerable of the population in this regard are the elderly, who often rely on Medicare for much, if not all, of their health care coverage.
Whether it is the Democrats suggesting a complete Obama-style overhaul, or Republicans such as Paul Ryan suggesting a privatization plan for future Medicare beneficiaries, politicians have been taking aim at these ideas with frightening suggestions about what will happen if those ideas should come to fruition.
The confusing state of government and private health care insurance which few understand, combined with the very real fears people have of catastrophic illness which could devour life-savings in a heartbeat contributes to the willingness of people to believe even the wildest of tales concerning the dire consequences of someone’s health care proposals.
“It is easy to deceive on the issue because the knowledge base of the electorate when it comes to the complexities of health care is relatively low,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an expert on political communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center.
For instance, remember Sarah Palin and her suggestion that Obama’s health care legislation had “death panels” as an important feature, which turned out to be a complete fabrication?
“Many people believe crazy things about health care because they want to believe them,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
He added that the atmosphere of accusation and doomsday predictions reminds him of the unfounded fears about fluoridated drinking water during the 50s.
Here’s an example from the recent past. Rick Santorum fanned the flames of fear when he subtly confirmed an unfounded rumor that Obama care would not give advanced health treatments to stroke victims over the age of 70 and would only provide “comfort care.” No matter that two doctors’ organizations and the Health and Human Services Department denied the rumor as completely baseless.
And now grandma is being pushed off a cliff; by Democrats and Republicans, goodness me!
The left-leaning ad from the Agenda Project shows an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed by an actor playing the part of aforementioned Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, while “America the Beautiful” is heard in the background. But then the beautiful walk turns scary as Ryan begins to steer grandma to the edge of a cliff. Despite grandma’s attempts at fighting back, over she goes. The caption tells viewers to communicate to Ryan that without Medicare America just won’t be beautiful anymore.
The right is just as guilty of similar tactics to persuade voters that their side is the one that protects American citizens and the left wants to murder granny. In this ad by AmericanDoctors4Truth Obama is pushing granny’s wheelchair while she asks for a pacemaker that her doctor recommended she get. The ad replays the real Obama who gave a somewhat rambling answer to a woman in 2009 who asked if his health plan would affect her mother, a 100-year old woman who received a pacemaker and now leads a good life. The sound bite of Obama which is used in the ad says, “you know what, maybe this isn’t going to help, maybe you’re better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.”
What the ad left out is when Obama later added, “Maybe some patients should get a pacemaker faster, if that keeps them healthy. I mean, this can cut both ways,” he said.
Chicken Little thought the sky was falling because she didn’t know any better, and she was able to use scare tactics to persuade other confused and ill-informed personages that she was right. It is time for the American people to get informed, learn about the issues, and vote based on information and an informed opinion after struggling with the issues. Political scare tactic advertising is misleading, undemocratic, and perhaps even cynical.