Corporate Media Have Ruined the Health Care Debate

By Isabel Macdonald for AlterNet

TV networks have shut out coverage of single-payer as an option for health reform. We must work to get it back in public 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:

Conceded 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.

After 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.

What 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.



  1. Rick Townsend on July 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    “You can read their letter to ABC, CBS and NBC”

    Let’s not forget the forth alternative available on the commercial television networks; PBS ! The three main commercial TV networks have simply committed a crime of omission by making no reference to the Single Payer Healthcare Plan, PBS has gone past that and done several hit pieces on the News Hour that must make the Health Insurance and Pharma Corporations very happy.

    I originally supported Public Broadcasting in the 1960s and saw it as a public forum for those ideas that were shunned by the various commercial interests, and their minions in government, that have always been a major obstacle to realizing the full potential afforded by the General Welfare clause of our Constitution.

    Obviously the takeover of the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by right-wing elements during the Bush Administration has forever corrupted a once treasured resource in this country. If PBS can only be yet another media source of government propaganda, it’s time to assign this once great paragon to the dust bin of history and use this bandwidth to provide something of value for American Citizens. A channel dedicated to teaching civics and the U.S. Constitution would be an excellent idea as far too many have little knowledge of what they are giving away !

  2. oldog on July 31, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    It is shameful that no mention of single-payer makes it into congressional debate or the evening news, but not surprising. The industries making big bucks off health care, Insurance, medical suppliers, and many doctors, like things just the way they are. And of course, the minority party has no stake in anything that might have popular support.

    It’s obvious that the same old song and dance will produce a complicated, expensive compromise with enough holes to allow business as usual to prevail.

    I think enough Americans are ready for a change: A simple plan we can all get behind that would work.

    Next election, and the next, and the next, simply vote AGAINST all incumbents. Any warm body is better than the deadwood bought and paid-for by the special interest groups.

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