Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and a Public Option

The source of the phrase “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” is unknown although American author Mark Twain and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, among others have been cited. Wikepedia has a nice entry on the phrase itself for anyone interested.  I think the phrase needs a revival, just in terms of its use as applied to discussions about health care reform.  No matter what one’s opinion on how to, or even if the country should reform our health care system, somewhere in their argument you most likely find statistics.  These statistics will be assumed to be false by people holding an opposite opinion, even if the statistics point to some truth that ought to be considered in our national discussion.

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee rejected not one, but two proposals by votes of 15-8 and 13-10 to put a Public Health Insurance Option into legislation under consideration. Their reasoning: a government run plan would pose too much of a threat and too much competition to the private sector.  Say what?

All I could think of was the phrase “Lies, Damn Lies…” and this cartoon:


The claim that a public health insurance option will ruin private insurance is bogus.  It’s a smoke screen and a straight out lie to allow for-profit insurance companies to keep a monopoly on an industry that is completely broken and puts profit above people’s needs.  The people who would most benefit from a public insurance option are people least likely to vote and show up at town hall type meetings, because they are too busy working to keep a roof over their heads and so resigned to a government and a society that won’t help them and doesn’t care about them that they don’t spend what little time they do have to themselves fighting corporations such as health insurance companies.

Take note of this report on NPR (a public media outlet that hasn’t put private media out of business):

Of the 100 congressional districts with the highest percentage rates of uninsured people, 53 are represented either by Republican lawmakers who are fighting the overhaul, or by conservative Blue Dog Democrats who have slowed down and diluted the overhaul proposals.

One leader of the Blue Dog effort is Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, the coalition’s chief health care negotiator. His 4th Congressional District covers southern Arkansas, a rural area with a high poverty rate. In his district, more than one out of five residents under age 65 lacks health insurance. That’s 30 percent higher than the national average.

Health care proposals from the White House and House Democratic leaders aim to help the uninsured in several ways. One possibility is a “public option” — that is, a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. It would be financially self-sustaining, while giving the uninsured a low-priced alternative to the private companies, and shaking up the near-monopoly that insurance companies enjoy in places like rural Arkansas.

But in June, Ross and the Blue Dog Coalition held up the House bill for two weeks. They wanted the measure to promote co-ops instead of a public option, an approach that more liberal lawmakers dismiss as unworkable.

In his public appearances, Ross speaks passionately about the need for a health care overhaul. Last month, he told a town hall meeting in Arkadelphia, Ark., “I was negotiating 10 hours a day with everybody from the president to the speaker to the majority leader to the chairman of the committee. I wasn’t negotiating to kill the bill. I was negotiating to give us the kind of common sense health care reform that we need and that reflects Arkansas values.”

The meeting was a chance for Ross’ constituents to be heard. It ran well over the two-hour time limit, but mostly, there was only the familiar bickering about illegal immigrants and the role of government. Just three people without insurance asked questions.

“Many of those individuals who would need a public health care option are those who are not likely to be able to take two hours out of their day to go to a public event like that town hall,” says Kevin Motl, a history professor at Ouachita Baptist University who attended the meeting. “They were too busy earning hourly wages and trying to keep roofs above their children’s heads. Those voices are not going to be present in that discourse.”

Why has the Sunflower Chalice turned into a blog on health care reform lately? A couple of reasons: A week doesn’t go by that I don’t hear another story about how our health care system is failing someone I know personally, causing  physical and financial hardship, not to mention the emotional and spiritual cost that I sometimes know about and sometimes don’t know about.  This doesn’t even take into account what I deal with as a minister of a congregation.  Another reason is that, this year, as last, I am going to be spending time blogging about some matters of the spirit on another website, this one connected to a new adult lifespan religious education program in my congregation, as well as another spirituality blog about my experience in spiritual direction (that I am writing anonymously).

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