KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Scare Tactics Favored By Generations Of Reform Opponents

Just like in earlier attempts to overhaul the American health system, opponents have turned to scare tactics, a strategy with a success rate in the history of blocking health reform, NPR reports. "It's really a case of deja vu," political scientist Jonathan Oberlander tells NPR. "You hear in today's debate echoes of the past that extend all the way to the early part of the 20th century."

Back in 1915, as the First World War loomed, opponents linked health reformers to the German emperor, saying it was a plot to take over the United States, he said. In the 1940s, the American Medical Association said reform efforts would pave the way for the communist Red Army. When the Clinton administration attempted reform, insurance companies brought out the Harry and Louise ads to "sow seeds of doubt in the public" (Rovner, 8/28).

CQ Politics has a video fact-checking "some of the claims made by both sides in the health overhaul debate" (Wayne and Satter, 8/28). 

"As Congress considers multiple versions of health reform, misunderstanding and falsehoods have crept into the national debate," The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer reports. While President Obama has rejected the "phony claims" that illegal immigrants would receive health coverage, that the federal government would pay for abortions and that the overhaul was a government takeover, more than half of people in a recent poll said they believed each of those claims. A panel of experts (including NPR's Rovner) rebut the claims (Suarez, 8/28). 

PolitiFact's "Truth-O-Meter" examines a claim Rush Limbaugh has made on his popular radio show twice. The St. Petersburg Times' fact-checking Web site consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "[Limbaugh] says Obama 'wants to mandate circumcision.' But the CDC's eventual recommendations -- if they even include circumcision -- will be voluntary, not mandatory. In addition, we could we find no connection between Obama and the new guidance, and no evidence that Obama had even used the word in a public forum. In fact, the recommendations were under discussion long before Obama took office. This one is ridiculous enough to set the meter ablaze -- Pants on Fire!" (Richert, 8/27).

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