Health care reform, the most ambitious domestic policy initiative of our time, is now law. What an amazing and historic time! And yet every day the news is filled with stories of Tea Partiers and other right-wing Republicans, including those who will benefit most from health care reform, vehemently opposing the law. The disconnect, I feel, stems from Republican efforts to recapture political power at the expense of the well-being of Americans as a people.
Any objective comparison of current health care conditions against the fixes envisioned by the health care reform law makes clear what a tremendous step forward this country has taken for a large majority of its citizens. The bill does amazing things such as ending pre-existing condition discrimination, extending coverage for young people, closing the senior citizen drug prescription ‘doughnut hole’ and mandating health insurance for all US citizens. (See a full healthcare timeline at “What Obama’s new health care bill means for us” by Bob Lotich, Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2010.) Unfortunately, most Americans don’t seem to realize that this new law, in providing health care for ALL Americans, sits up there with important social measures such as Social Security, Medicare, and the Civil Rights Act. Why? Because the GOP cannot allow such a win for the American people if it comes on the Democrats’ watch and in fighting the HCR law, they have encouraged damaging lies about Obama and other leading Democrats. A recent poll of the GOP revealed that an astonishing one in four Republicans believe that Obama is the Antichrist. Why is this happening? I personally blame basic human psychology and the Republicans for abusing the uneducated American public.
In short, once people believe something, it’s hard to get them to shake it. Numerous studies have shown that people tend to seek out information that is consistent with their views and although some of the more ridiculous myths will eventually dissipate, we will still have a misinformed public that will negatively impact progress towards health care for all. In fact, people seem to argue so vehemently against the corrective information that they end up strengthening the misperception in their own minds. This holds even truer when the person lacks education and chooses to believe the lies that a public figure puts forth.
It is the Republicans that spew this hatred and misinformation. It was Sarah Palin that said that her parents and baby would “have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel.’” Other myths about the legislation were that it promotes government take-over, provides free coverage to illegal immigrants, uses taxpayer money to subsidize abortions and mandates end-of-life counseling for the elderly. Come on! And remember not a single Republican voted in support of health care.
To think that these myths will be dispelled as people start to see the benefits of health care is way too optimistic in my opinion. First, the major parts of this legislation will not be effective until 2014, which is not soon enough. Second, as we have seen with the other major social reforms, they don’t get to live up to their true potential because of all the negativity and misinformation. Has Social Security been able to live up to what was envisioned? I don’t think so. I fear that health care will also not be able to live to its full potential. An example is the fact that we lost the public option to have the current version of health care legislation. How many more sacrifices are we going to make?
The “fog of controversy,” in the words of Speaker Pelosi, is unlikely to lift. With Republicans already arguing for the law’s repeal, health care will play a major role in the midterms and the 2012 presidential campaign. While we should all appreciate that democracy is about being able to freely voice your opinion, no matter how absurd it is, we should also remember that sometimes voicing our opinion in the face of the GOP’s lies and propaganda is also our duty, especially as Democrats.