Democracy Soup

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‘Public Option’: A Better Talking Point, But Progressives Still Way Behind On Making Strong Health Care Argument

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Originally published on on Thu, 06/18/2009 – 2:13pm

Health care is really about getting medical attention you need without feeling deprived or fearing bankruptcy. But the health care debate comes down to buzzwords.

In the early 1990s, the Republicans blitzed the discussion with fears of government-controlled health care, how government bureaucrats would decide whether you got treatment, socialized medicine, and rationing of health care.

What has changed now is that the progressive side has caught up, somewhat, in terms of positioning.

Single payer is what most of BuzzFlash’s readers want (and what BuzzFlash wants), but single payer as a concept isn’t very descriptive. Yes, if you pay attention to the health care debate, you understand the nuances. But to those Americans who are trying to figure out which is the best way to go, single payer doesn’t tell them why it’s good.

“Public option” is a little better. In watching Howard Dean recently on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” Dean did a great job in explaining “public option” and also framed the question in asking why Republicans wouldn’t be in favor of public option. And “public option” gets around using the word “government.”

European-style or Canadian-style would be simple ways to convey what we are looking for. But for numerous reasons (and bad propaganda from the other side), those expressions don’t have positive connotations.But Republicans and even the Blue Dog Democrats are framing the discussion in a way that diminishes legitimate and necessary options. To say that single-payer isn’t even on the table decimates the concept of reform.

The Democrats have had at least 15 years to think about how to phrase their fight in a different fashion. After all, say what you will about the Republicans’ take on this issue, but they aren’t using new techniques. Every trick the GOP is using is at least 15 years old.

Yes, it’s good that Harry and Louise aren’t in the picture anymore. And progressives should be happy to learn from the mistakes of the Clinton Administration. But it doesn’t feel like the lessons have been completely learned.

Every major poll offers huge support for changing the way we do health care. People are ready for a difference-maker but want to make sure they keep what they like about what they have. This reporter talked to a woman in Detroit last month who voted for Obama and was a fan, but was against health care reform because she didn’t want to lose her doctor.

The Wednesday night ABC prime-time special from the White House on health care would be an ideal time to showcase a new approach for progressives to reframe the health care debate.

Despite the whines from the right-wing fringe, there are a few problems with this format. Charles “capital gains obsessed” Gibson and former Nixon White House staffer Diane Sawyer are hosting the event, and the audience members who will ask questions offered by “selected by ABC News who have divergent opinions in this historic debate.” That won’t bold well for anyone with a progressive bent from being called on.

But maybe one or two questions from the left can get into the discussion. And if Obama hears the words “single payer,” the president will start shaking his head side to side and get that look on his face that says, “not going to happen.”

Politically, “public option” may be the best progressives can hope for in 2009. But if anything, “public option” should be the compromise, not the progressives’ starting point in the discussion.

Health care is difficult to explain. And there is a very strong feeling that health care is much too valuable to be reduced to a marketing term. However, “socialized medicine” conveys a stronger image in the average American mind than “single payer” and “public option” combined. Until progressives truly understand this, and start fighting the fight of reality in the American marketplace, the quality of health care in the United States will never be anywhere near what it should.


Written by democracysoup

June 18, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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