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Local Commentary: Many health care objections overrule reason

By Jeff Lamberty

Lies, half-truths, and statements based on willful ignorance. That seems to be all the far-right can come up with in response to the groundbreaking reform of health care and health insurance practices. From the early days of "death panels" to the claim that private insurance would be outlawed, there has been a concerted effort to use fear to overrule reason. For a certain subset of our population, this effort has worked. Take the most immediate example at hand: last week's Local Commentary ("No euphoria over health care bill," April 17 Sun Tribune). Let's examine some of the claims in this column.

In the first sentence, the author states "...the so-called benefits from this heath care bill will not kick in until 2014..." This is false. Any number of news outlets have laid out what is going to happen, year by year, and a lot of good stuff happens before 2014. For instance, here's what's going to happen this year: young adults will be able to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26; insurers will not be able to exclude covering children with pre-existing conditions; lifetime benefit limits will be prohibited; and any new plan must cover preventative services, with no co-pay. That's just this year!

Later in the column, the author writes "The American Medical Association stated that 40 percent to 45 percent of doctors are going to quit or retire within the next year... the Mayo Clinic in Arizona will no longer take Medicare patients, and Walgreens will not accept Medicare prescriptions." Boom - three false statements in a row. The AMA never said what is claimed here - In fact, the AMA supported the health care bill. The numbers used in the column are actually from a poll conducted by a newspaper called Investor's Business Daily. To give you an example of their past polling successes, during the presidential election, they had a poll showing John McCain beating President Obama among young voters 74 percent to 22 percent. I would take any numbers with a grain of salt, and take the time to look into why their results here are questionable, at best. Even Fox News stated that this poll was "not scientific."

The Mayo Clinic in Arizona still takes Medicare patients. A single five-physician clinic that is associated with the Mayo Clinic in Arizona has opted out of Medicare for a time, to conduct a trial. On the Mayo Clinic's health policy blog, where I found this information, the article contained the following: "...Mayo Clinic strongly supports health insurance reform and health care delivery reform."

The claim that Walgreen's will no longer accept Medicare prescriptions is also incorrect (I see a pattern forming). According to press releases found on Walgreen's website, they threatened to not accept Medicaid customers in two states - Delaware and Washington. The situation in Delaware began in June 2009, the situation in Washington in March 2009 - for those of you keeping track, this is long before the final health care bill was passed. These were disputes between two state Medicare programs and a single retail corporation. Talks between the groups appear to be ongoing.

I don't mind an honest, spirited debate about issues, but the vitriol, the fear-mongering and the lies about health care reform need to be put to the side. We now have a framework to build upon, something we can take forward to make healthcare even more equitable and accessible for all. Let's take the initiative, and do it for those to come after us. Our kids deserve it.

Jeff Lamberty is a Morris resident.