Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Do You Combat Lies?

I don't know. Frankly, the effort feels a bit hopeless at the moment, considering the way things have evolved with cable and online "opinion" news. It's easy, these days, to express opinion as if it's fact, while at the same time feeling little or no responsibility to check those facts.

Today what frustrates me are the attacks being waged on the British health care system, the NHS. It's all about torpedoing healthcare reform here, of course. Some conservative groups have clearly decided that most Americans are misinformed enough to be lied directly to. They're probably right, and they're probably going to succeed at watering down our health care reform enough that it doesn't make things better for anyone. I find that rather depressing.

Take a listen to this NPR story on the subject.

My personal perspective... I've been part of a Scottish family for about twelve years now. I lived a good five years of that in the UK. I know the NHS isn't perfect, but I also know that I'd jump at the chance of a similar system here. Without it, Plan A for us in the event of a chronic illness is that we'll move back to the UK. We've thought a lot about it, and have felt that way for a long time. I've seen family members treated for chronic illnesses that required long term care in both countries. I've seen how family and friends have raised special needs children in both countries. My daughter was born in the UK, my son in the US. A close friend is a career nurse that's worked in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and... in the US. She's seen the best and worst of the NHS; she's seen the same in the US. Guess which she'd pick?

I used the NHS myself. It's where I first learned to trust doctors and to look to them for preventive medical advice and assessment. And I've no problem believing the FACTS that life expectancy is longer in the UK (see this site from the CIA) and that the World Health Organization rank the US lower than the UK for quality of care.

All of this leads me to complete support of a single payer system - something which we're not even really talking about here. Again, it's not because I think such a system is perfect. I don't. It's not. But I do think it's less fatally and fundamentally and morally flawed than our current system. I can't stress how... right it feels to be able call on a physician without being asked about payment, without having to worry about how much your insurance will cover, without trying to do the math to figure out what deductibles and co pays really mean, without having to make life decisions solely because of insurance fears. Yes, you pay for it in taxes, but frankly we do that here anyway, whether we like to admit it or not.

Mostly, though, I've had a taste of (and find it hard to forget) knowing what it feels like for healthcare to be about healthcare. A taste of what it feels like for it be a right that's shared by an entire population provided as best as a bureaucracy can manage. If you haven't experienced it, you should try it sometime.

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Blogger Mark Lavallee said...

Good post David.

With everything, there's going to be naysayers and differing opinions. The thing is that I don't think most GOP members feel the way you're talking about - as with most things, it's probably a more outspoken minority.

It has been my experience that this is how things work anyway. If we came out and said "There will be free sandwhiches on Friday" the someone somewhere is bound to raise a stink.

It's the human condition really.

The problem is this loud minority has free speech and therefore can yell all day long about whatever they want. Eventually, enough people ignorant on the topic will hear and be swayed.

Now, to answer your question - How to combat the attack?

Well, it's the responsibility of the other side to somehow go to these people who are ignorant (on both sides of the issue) and say "Here's what we're talking about doing. Group A is saying {insert lie} but here's what they're not saying, etc, etc."

In the end, whether you are for or against the proposed reform, the biggest challenge will always be ignorance. As Terry Goodkind put it - people will believe anything because they either want it to be true or because they are afraid that it's true.

That's a very good observation and an all too popular occurrence.

On the other side of the issue - and I'm taking none here - I believe that some people are truly scared of health care reform. I believe they wonder, deep down, what it will be like for Americans to take on the same type of system as the English. I point this out because when you step back and look at us as Americans, I mean really look at us, we're kind of ridiculous. We can be *very* lazy and *very* narcissistic in a lot of different ways.

Is the English system imperfect? Sure. Do people there take advantage of it (on both sides)? Of course. Will the same thing happen in America? Yes. Again, the human condition.

However, I believe that the fear I mentioned earlier is based on the idea that the downfalls of the English system, expected as they are in any society, will be magnified here because we are, after all, Americans.

I believe some people see it as "health care welfare".

These are the people you must reach if you will combat any lies.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

You combat lies by being smarter than the liars. The more of an independent thinker you are, the harder it is to lie to you.

Of course, it won't do if it's just you that's smarter. You need to help educate others to become independent thinkers. Because it's not just about health care. There were lies before, and there will be lies again, and there will be no shortage of liars as long as there's no shortage of people willing to believe anything they're told by the nice man in the box.

One thing I've done to help is to create The Blog of Imaginary Things at

The blog is a series of exercises designed to help people develop their creativity and stretch their thinking. It's like an improv game, but for writers (and any other artists that want to play along.)

Instead of just adding to the noise of the internet, things like this (along with art/music education for kids, etc.) help people exercise their brains, so when the man in the shiny box squawks their minds are too active to just parrot what he says.

8:09 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Incubus Jax,

I hope you're right that most of this is about an "outspoken minority". I believe that too. The problem is that the minority doesn't need to propose their own ideas and convince us of them. All they need to do is muddy the waters, make noise and erode other peoples' sense of clarity and confidence. They win by making the other side loose, not by winning anything themselves.

That troubles me because they'll be some legislation at the end of all this - and I'm worried it will be watered down enough to not really do much.

As for "health care welfare"... Sure, I can see that Americans might see it that way, but I don't. Not at all. That suggests that some people are getting something for free - something that others aren't getting. That it's something that only goes to a portion of the population, like charity.

Single payer health care isn't that. It's granting everybody access to the same care in a way that bundles the burden. It makes health care a service we acknowledge we're all better off for having access to. I'd ask people to think about it in other terms. For example, regardless of how much we pay in taxes (or if we even have a job) we're all allowed to use our highway system. We can all expect cops to come to our aid (or hope they would) if we're a victim of crime. A fire crew will put out a fire without checking first whether the house in question is covered under their plan.

Imagine if the first thing the 911 operator asked you when you called to report a crime in progress was what insurance you had? And if they then put you on hold while they checked with your insurer to see if the crime in question was covered by your plan?

I know - it sounds completely absurd. It is. It's not literally the same, of course. But I do think that we could flip our thinking on health care in a way that establishes it as a fundamental right of living in this prosperous country.


I love that wedding photo! Very interesting project.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Bryan Russell said...

Well, I'm Canadian, and they're painting our system with the same brush. And since I have little money and probably couldn't afford health insurance... guess where I'm happy to be living? Yes, a few things take longer. An MRI for a non-critical health problem will take longer, and you might have to wait awhile. But I probably couldn't afford one in the US anyway. I mean, it was nice knowing, last winter, that when my wife miscarried and started hemorraghing terribly, the hospital stay that saved her life wouldn't be using up our grocery money for the next four months. Who needs that?

I think the super-rich, who are never worried about the cost, might be a little annoyed, as certain things might have delays. But for everyone else universal coverage is a godsend. It's nice to know that if one of my family ever requires a major procedure of some sort it will not cost us our house.

Just my thoughts.


12:11 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


I hear you. I'm sorry to hear about the miscarriage, but I'm glad your wife got the care she needed, and that you didn't get hit with a life-changing bill after wards. I fear that myself.

And I hate it. I hate it that in so many ways our health insurance system is not about feeling insured. It's about being scared. Scared of the worst case scenario. BUT if that was all there was to it I'd be a lot happier. I mean, if buying insurance equaled piece of mind I'd not be so bothered. But it doesn't. I've always found having insurance to mean that you still pay at each step of the way, and that there's always, always the fear that the company will just say no - to something that you've potentially already had to do, or something that you're just going to have to do anyway, or that they'll get you on some technicality and deny payment because of that. It drives me crazy thinking about it.

As for the super rich... they'll always be able to pay for their health care. I don't see anyone saying that single payer would mean an elimination of for profit possibilities.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Mark Lavallee said...


I completely agree!

I do agree that there are people out there who simply "don't know" and it's easier to be afraid then to learn.

I hope it doesn't get watered down as well, education goes a long way. :)

12:59 PM  
Blogger Mark Lavallee said...

I believe the super rich will do as they have always done - pay for their own private healthcare. I don't think a public system will destroy the private side, after all there are still public schools and private schools.

And our current system is broken anyway - take it from me I used to work in a medical billing office. I've seen medicare reject chemo treatments for a 30 year old woman because "it's her first time having cancer" - that's right, medicare in would have only paid if it was a recurrence.

Explain to me how that makes any sense at all?

And insurance... Jesus don't even get me started on those group of idiots. It's the largest legalized scam on the planet. Did you know that your insurance company only pays pennies on the dollar of your bill?

So say you got an MRI and your responsibility was $500 and your insurance paid $2000.

Your insurance didn't pay $2000. They told you they paid $2000, but they really didn't. They paid probably $0.30 cents on the dollar. The best insurances pay $0.50.

I wish I was making this up, but I'm not.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Corby Kennard said...

Good post, David. My wife and I have been considering a move to Toronto for a couple of years. Canadian health care is just one of the many reasons.

I was finally able to get insurance for my back problem a couple of years ago, but only because Jen's office has an insurance lawyer (I didn't even know one of those existed) and he was able to cut through the red tape and get me covered. Now I live with little to no pain instead of constant crippling pain. I know plenty of people just deal and stay out of the hospital because their insurance sucks or they have none - I know that if I had to live the way I was living for the rest of my life, I would have seriously considered ending it.

Anyway, Single Payer health care for all and conservatives be damned. Lets get some change in our hope, people!

5:24 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


Glad to hear your back is getting some treatment. That's as it should be. What's NOT is that your treatment depends on so many other factors - and that it took particular expertize to get you what you deserve anyway. It obviously shouldn't be the case that someone just like you without that lawyer to cut through the red tape is out of luck.


2:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It has become apparent that it is too easy for people (members of congress, perhaps?) to forget that there are a bunch of people out here with jobs that don't offer benefits but which pay enough to keep employees from qualifying for medicare/medicaid. Most could not even come close to affording a private policy, and the ones they might be able to afford are pretty much scams that will leave them in the lurch the first time they actually need care. The debate might have begun with universal coverage, but just as with most things conservatives oppose, it quickly became about the "haves" scrambling to protect what they have from an imagined threat while ignoring the very existence of "have-nots."

My wife and I had a child last year, and the birth was supposed to be covered by the state plan. We chose a midwife-run birth center, however, which cost less than a quarter of what hospitals charge, and yet the medicaid plan refused to cover any of it because it was not an approved provider. So we bought our son with a Discover card: $4000, out the door.

Though is seems counterintuitive, Hospitals and insurance companies (even the "public" plans) seem to conspire to drive the cost of everything up. I think the single-payer option is the only way to get control back from the corporations. It infuriates me when I hear comments about "death boards" making life and death decisions for people--what do they think insurance companies and PPOs have been doing all along? A single payer plan might take away the profit incentive and bring health care back to what it is supposed to be about. Ah well. Thanks for letting me rant.

4:15 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


Yep. I'm on your side. And I can well imagine how infuriating it would be to want to make the right choices about things as important as your child's birth - and to know the choice will cost LESS than the norm - but then to have some company choose to say no.

I really can't understand why people opposed to change say they don't want the government making their health care decisions. But they'd rather have for-profit companies making them? I just don't understand that logic - or the willful and recalcitrant desire to ignore actual logic.

Good for you, though, for birthing your child with thought and care. My second child we had at home, with wonderful midwives. It was a birth free of any medication, complications or hospital costs. By the end of the day we had another baby, and my wife and daughter and I could all lay in bed with her, at home. Pretty perfect.

Of course, yes, we paid for it ourselves.

12:37 PM  

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