Any hope that the debate on health care reform might be conducted in a serious manner, without the fear-mongering seen in the early 1990s, may have been dashed by the rhetoric hurled at the heath programs in the economic stimulus bill.
Advocates across the ideological spectrum saw the stimulus bill as pre-cursor to the next big debate on health care reform.
For conservatives, it was viewed as the first skirmish in a battle against "government run" health care. For liberals, it was viewed as a "first step" toward using the power of government to guarantee universal coverage and "transform" the health care delivery system. For many of us in the middle, the ideological debate was strangely at odds with the actual substance of the legislation.
Conservative critics alleged that the health information technology and comparative effectiveness programs would lead to government rationing of health care. The Washington Times went so far as to compare these programs to Hitler's program to euthanize "elderly people with incurable diseases, young children who were critically disabled, and others who were deemed non-productive."
Yesterday, ACP's Chief Executive Officer, Dr. John Tooker, joined with his counterpart with the AARP, Mr. Bill Novelli, to take The Washington Times on for its "unconscionable" reference to Nazi Germany. These two CEOs, writing on behalf of the second largest physician membership organization and the largest consumer advocacy group in the United States, wrote that their members "would strongly oppose any attempt to limit any doctor or hospital from providing the best possible care to any patient. So it is especially galling that this editorial would present these two solutions as part of a plan to cut off care for older Americans."
Let's look at the facts. This is what the actual report language for the final House-Senate agreement says:
"The conferees do not intend for the comparative effectiveness research funding included in the agreement to be used to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer. The funding shall be used to conduct or support research to evaluate and compare the clinical outcomes, effectiveness, risk, and benefits of two or more medical treatments and services that address a particular medical condition. Conferees recognize that a 'one-size-fits all' approach to patient treatment is not the most medically appropriate solution to treating various conditions."
Not exactly the stuff of the National Socialist Party, is it?
It is not just the right that uses words to score ideological points. The left often says that health care is a right, but once something is defined as a right, it paints people who disagree as wanting to deny those same rights. This places people who have legitimate concern about the role of government in health care in the same category as, say, past generations who opposed a woman's right to vote or stood in the schoolhouse door.
Health care reform deserves a good debate, and there is plenty of room for spirited, informed, respectful and evidence-based disagreement on the role of government. But the public is not served when words are used to mislead on the issues, to create fear, or to demonize those who disagree with you.
Today's question: What do you think - can we get to a respectful and informed debate on health care that avoids rhetoric that seems more designed to create fear than bring light to the issues?