Today we’re checking in on the ongoing Pennsylvania Senate race, where Medicare for All–along with crudites, poop tweets, hydroxychloroquine, and Turkish nationalism–has become a hot-button issue. This race is beyond interesting, shading into the bizarre! A lot is at stake, since control over the Senate is going to be hotly contested this midterm election, and this is the most likely seat to flip from Republican to Democrat.
The Democratic candidate Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman is running against none other than Dr. Mehmet Oz, the instantly recognizable daytime talkshow host from Oprah and the Dr. Oz Show. Oz is the Trump-endorsed candidate for the GOP, and he’s been producing attack ads going after Fetterman’s alleged support for “socialized medicine,” but when we dug deep into Oz’s own healthcare plan, we came to some verrrrry interesting and uncomfortable conclusions!
The U.S. Senate is currently split exactly 50-50, with Democrats having the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. This has ruined just about everything, since it let Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema hold the country hostage. So any contested Senate seat is a potential big deal right now.
Initially, the race was seen as something of a toss-up. BUT THEN, in a surprise move, Donald Trump endorsed Dr. Oz in the Republican primary, giving him the oomph to beat hedge fund exec Dave McCormick. (Surprising because McCormick’s campaign had many former Trump aides, including Hope Hicks.)
As of this podcast, every single poll shows Fetterman with a sizable lead in the race, a lead that keeps growing: anywhere between 5% and 18%.
So the stakes are high in this race, but we also care because these two candidates have been going after each other’s healthcare platforms… which after taking a very close look, are actually not that far apart.
The Dr. Oz Show provides general health and lifestyle advice, including promoting products to support your health. BUT, his advice is very bad as it turns out: A team of medical researchers at the University of Alberta in 2014 analyzed how many of the recommendations on the Dr. Oz Show were supported by evidence: it turns out, less than half! “evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%”
That same year (2014), Dr. Oz was called to testify before a Senate hearing looking at false and deceptive advertising for weight-loss products. When he was called out by Sen. Claire McKaskill for promoting fake weight loss cures, he candidly replied: “I actually do personally believe in the items I talk about on the show. I passionately study them. I recognize they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact but nevertheless I would give my audience the advice I give my family all the time and I have given my family these products. Specifically the ones you mentioned, then I’m comfortable with that part.”
In addition to diet pills, he’s promoted a lot of wild shit over the years: the idea that there are deadly levels of Arsenic in apple juice, the claim that most olive oil is fake, the concept of “Reparative Therapy” (to “repair” LGBTQ+ people).
Dr. Oz has reportedly been eyeballing a political career since as far back as 2009. Dr. Oz first jumped into politics when he became enmeshed with the Trump campaign, and then the Trump administration.
His greatest contribution, as far as we can tell, is that he played a major role pushing the Trump administration to grant emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, the fake and dangerous treatment for COVID. And, very unfortunately, he was successful! The FDA granted a controversial emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine. Just 3 months later, the FDA was forced to reverse its authorization decision, after multiple studies showed the drug was ineffective and potentially harmful to COVID patients. The Trump administration still mounted a campaign to get hydroxychloroquine authorized, and Dr. Oz devised a plan to run his own clinical trials of the drug.
That brings us to the Pennsylvania Senate race. Funding his race using not only with his considerable TV fortune, but with money from his wife’s EXTREMELY wealthy family.
But first and foremost, Dr. Oz is a man who loves crudite.
How is Medicare for All featuring in this race?
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is very adamant that health care is a “universal human right,” but unfortunately light on specifics – “expanding healthcare access, whatever that looks like”. He has not signed on to Medicare for All or to our knowledge, any policy that would get us to that goal.
That hasn’t stopped Oz, who ran a truly bizarre attack ad with things popping out of Fetterman’s head (“Now that John Fetterman claims to be recovering, let’s pull back his hoodie and examine what’s in his head…”)
In addition to a bong popping out of his head, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez- holding a sign that says “Free Healthcare for Everyone” – does as well, while the voiceover narrator says “Socialized Medicine? Look at these crazy ideas!”
We took a deep dive into Dr. Oz’s own healthcare reform plan, which he calls “Medicare Advantage for All” [VICTORY LAP FOR M4A MESSAGING HERE].
This plan would expand Medicare to cover everyone (so far so good), it would be publicly financed through a payroll tax (so far very similar to M4A), but instead of getting coverage under public Medicare, everyone would have to choose a private Medicare Advantage plan.
Now your first thought might be: Oz is a crazy right-wing healthcare profiteer who wants to further privatize our healthcare system. You’re not wrong. Our first thought was: this is identical to 2020 presidential candidate and current VP Kamala Harris’s healthcare plan. It’s also fully in line with the pro-corporate Democrats who claim you can get to universal healthcare while preserving for-profit insurers, and falsley claim this is how many European countries do it.
Dr. Oz is a hilarious, comedic figure, but the insidiously scary part is that his plan for healthcare is not that far off from mainstream Democratic plans. How did we get to the point where one of the most egregious, visible medical profiteers in this country is in general alignment with the “liberals” who got elected on the promise that they would hold medical profiteers accountable?
Unsurprisingly, Dr. Oz makes money directly from this industry at all levels – from “legit” investments in insurance companies to Green Coffee Bean diet schemes.
His healthcare plan would boost companies that he has significant investments in: “Financial disclosures show Oz and his wife own up to $550,000 worth of stock in UnitedHealth Group and up to $50,000 in CVS Health, which owns Aetna. Both UnitedHealth and Aetna have reported big revenues from Medicare Advantage plans… In all, Oz and his wife have at least $8.5 million in personal investments in the health care sector.”
If every American is forced to buy private insurance products, companies like UnitedHealth will see massive profits, which will get passed down to their shareholders. Dr. Oz, in the tradition of most filthy rich politicians, is advocating policies that will line his own pockets. Unfortunately many corporate Democrats share this trait with Oz.
To pass Medicare for All we’re going to have to elect more people who are willing to take on the healthcare industry. We have to hold pols across the political spectrum accountable… and we just so happen have a tool to do that! Ask elected officials and candidates to take the Patients Over Profits pledge, promising to reject contributions from the for-profit healthcare industry.
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