Thursday, August 20, 2009

Americans Already Deeply Uncomfortable with Death Susceptible to Scare Tactics

Sharon Begley, Newsweek, August 15, 2009,

Sharon Begley of Newsweek is my favorite science reporter who, I think, is better than most at the New York Times because she seems to be able to think outside the box that most of us in America seem incapable of escaping. Perhaps our cruelly predatory economic system has all of us wary of accepting outside views. Narrow minds seem to fall prey most easily to skillful propaganda put out by corporations posing as Republicans and Democrats.

Begley explains why Americans are so easily fooled, but I am not sure what we can do to dissuade misguided Americans. President Obama who is a decent guy has not adjusted to the aggressive and dishonesty of Republican and key Democratic politicians and their chief ally, large corporations who provide the funds to live a high life and fund their reelections.

Perhaps President Obama should stop trying to be political and just tell Americans why we need the basics of the bill with lots of examples of Americans harmed by the current system including Medicare instead of spending valuable time refuting Republicans and Corporate Health Insurers lies.

Jim Kawakami, August 20, 2009,

Sharon Begley Newsweek August 15, 2009 … The power of "death panels" as a phrase and a scare tactic also works because Americans are deeply uncomfortable with death. We don't like to think about it or talk about it, says bioethicist Tom Murray, president of the Hastings Center. Only 29 percent of us have a living will. As a result of that discomfort, reminding people of death sends them off the deep end, into the part of the neuronal pool where reason cowers behind existential terror.

And we're particularly vulnerable to scaremongering in the atmosphere of dread created by the economic meltdown. When people are already scared about losing their jobs and their homes and paying for health care, it doesn't take a lot to make them afraid of one more thing. We're living with "free-floating anxiety" every day, says psychiatrist Louann Brizendine of the University of California, San Francisco. …

The best myths have a kernel of truth, and of all the healthcare screeds, the most plausible is that reform will bring tens of millions of the currently uninsured into the system, making it even harder for you to get a doctor's appointment. Indeed, Luntz finds that the consequence of healthcare reform that frightens more people (44 percent) than any other is making patients "wait weeks or even months" to get the procedure or treatment you need. ("Socialized medicine" scares 26 percent. "Hillary-care"? 10 percent.)

But we're already in the land of waiting weeks for an appointment, thanks to a shortage of primary-care physicians that will only get worse: astonishingly, only 2 percent of medical students are entering primary-care internal medicine, notes the Journal of the American Medical Association. Still, it is a long-established fact of psychology that fear of losing what you have, even if what you have is less than great, always overpowers the hope of getting something better.

Sure, Obamacare might keep insurers from denying you coverage for preexisting conditions, offer you a Medicare-like option similar to the plan that millions of seniors love, eliminate insurers' annual and lifetime spending caps, and reduce your premiums. But it just might—who really knows?—take away something you have now. "What scares people is the devil they don't know," says Westen.

Which brings us to outright rationing. In his memo on "10 Rules for Stopping the 'Washington Takeover' of Healthcare," Luntz—and let me say the man is a psychology genius—tells clients to say that "the plan put forward by the Democrats will deny people treatments they need." This has much less plausibility than the longer-waits specter.

But it has emerged from confusion over a separate White House initiative: spending $1 billion to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for various diseases. Somehow that has morphed into cost (rather than medical) effectiveness. That is, bureaucrats will decide if it is worth treating you based on some calculation about the value of your life or health. …

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