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Countering the Lies about Health Care Reform

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All across the country, the opponents of health care reform are spreading misinformation about President Barack Obama proposals to improve health care coverage for all Americans. We shouldn’t be surprised about that. The insurance companies, the right-wing radio hosts, the K-Street lobbyists and the Republican leadership who are spreading the misinformation have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. They are willing to lie to protect industry profits.

It is troubling to see that so many well-meaning citizens are listening to the lies and believing them. One has only to watch a handful of angry questioners at some televised town-hall meetings to know that some of these questioners are good people who are troubled by what they are hearing. They want to know the facts. But all too often, they are denied answers by the right-wing rabble that eschews the truth by shouting others down.

That’s wrong. The opponents of health care reform are pulling out all the stops to kill the reform that millions of Americans need to improve our health care. They’re spreading falsehoods and creating chaos. They know what they are doing. All of us need to work together to break through the lies and shouts and slurs. We need to make sure that our friends and neighbors know the truth and can separate the lies from the facts about health insurance reform.

When Sarah Palin writes that President Obama is going to set up “death panels” to decide whether her child with Down syndrome, or elderly parents, are going to live or die, she is spreading a lie. That’s a disgrace and she is not alone. A few others liars need to be told to stop it, too.

Senior citizens seem to be a particular target for these liars. A lot of the mythology about health reform is designed to scare them.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was on Fox News last month saying that the President’s proposals would be paid for “on the backs of seniors through Medicare cuts.” That’s a lie. As the Alliance for Retired Americans points out, Medicare will benefit from cost-containment across the entire health care system. Furthermore, President Obama has proposed ending the wasteful overpayments currently given to private Medicare Advantage plans. That reform will help ensure that Medicare resources benefit all Medicare participants, and are not diverted to insurance companies.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) went on the House floor to state that the GOP opponents of health care reform “would not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.” The idea that the President and supporters of health insurance reform want to put people to death is an outrageous lie. As the Los Angeles Times noted on August 10, “This has become one of the most misleading, inflammatory claims made in the health care debate, advanced repeatedly by conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Republican lawmakers working to stoke fears among seniors.”

In fact, as the Times notes, under the proposal, Medicare would start to cover voluntary doctor visits to discuss living wills and advance directives for care, which would be used only if a person becomes seriously ill and unable to make medical decisions. As is currently the practice, advance care decisions would still be made by the individual. There is nothing mandatory or coercive in the proposal, which was proposed initially by Republicans in Congress.

Another lie spread across the country: the President’s proposal will lead to cuts in the coverage seniors receive for prescription drugs. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said as much on July 21 when he claimed that the Democratic proposal would cause “millions of seniors to lose their coverage for prescription medicine.” In fact, health insurance reform will save seniors hundreds of dollars on their prescriptions because it cuts the cost of drugs by half once they reach the Part D coverage gap. Moreover, it begins phasing in the end of the “donut hole.”

It’s troubling that these lies about health insurance reform are frightening senior citizens. That is an outrage. When you hear these lies, correct them. Let’s make sure seniors and all Americans know the truth about health care reform and that lies are spread to block real progress.

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Countering the Lies about Health Care Reform

All across the country, the opponents of health care reform are spreading misinformation about President Barack Obama proposals to improve health care coverage for all Americans. We shouldn’t be surprised about that. The insurance companies, the right-wing radio hosts, the K-Street lobbyists and the Republican leadership who are spreading the misinformation have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. They are willing to lie to protect industry profits.

It is troubling to see that so many well-meaning citizens are listening to the lies and believing them. One has only to watch a handful of angry questioners at some televised town-hall meetings to know that some of these questioners are good people who are troubled by what they are hearing. They want to know the facts. But all too often, they are denied answers by the right-wing rabble that eschews the truth by shouting others down.

That’s wrong. The opponents of health care reform are pulling out all the stops to kill the reform that millions of Americans need to improve our health care. They’re spreading falsehoods and creating chaos. They know what they are doing. All of us need to work together to break through the lies and shouts and slurs. We need to make sure that our friends and neighbors know the truth and can separate the lies from the facts about health insurance reform.

When Sarah Palin writes that President Obama is going to set up "death panels" to decide whether her child with Down syndrome, or elderly parents, are going to live or die, she is spreading a lie. That’s a disgrace and she is not alone. A few others liars need to be told to stop it, too.

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Gerald McEntee

Gerald McEntee

Gerald W. McEntee is the International President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the most aggressive and politically active organizing unions in the AFL-CIO. Since 2006, 145,000 women and men have changed their lives by forming a union with AFSCME. McEntee was first elected AFSCME President in 1981 and was re-elected in July 2008 to another four-year term.

As a Vice President of the AFL-CIO and chair of the Political Education Committee, McEntee is a key leader of the labor movement and its political efforts. Under McEntee’s leadership, the federation created its highly successful and much imitated voter education and mobilization program, which increased the number of union household voters to a record 26 percent of the electorate in 2006.

McEntee has long been a leader in the fight to reform the nation’s health care system. He chairs the AFL-CIO’s Health Care Committee and is a co-chair of Health Care for America NOW!, a national grassroots coalition that has launched a $40 million campaign to guarantee quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

McEntee is a co-founder and chairman of the board of the Economic Policy Institute, the preeminent voice for working Americans on the economy. He led the successful fight to stop President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security, was an outspoken proponent for increasing the federal minimum wage, and is one of the nation’s leading advocates for America’s vital public services.

For his efforts to improve the lives of working families, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights presented McEntee with its prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey Award in 2004.

Before assuming the presidency of AFSCME, McEntee began his distinguished career as a labor leader in Pennsylvania in 1958. He led the drive to unionize more than 75,000 Pennsylvania public service employees, which at that time was the largest union mobilization in history. He was elected Executive Director at the founding convention of AFSCME Council 13 in Pennsylvania in 1973 and an International Vice President of AFSCME in 1974.

McEntee holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. A native of Philadelphia, McEntee and his wife Barbara live in Washington, DC.

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