The Health Insurance companies and other opponents of government-funded health care have been trying to overcome the statistical evidence of the superiority of public systems by spreading “Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt” using horror stories and, of course, outright lies about the failures of health care in other nations having such systems. Those of us who favor health care reform, either single payer, or plans with robust public options, have been replying with horror stories about health care here, and testimony from individuals, primarily Americans in Canada, or Canadians, about their own very positive experiences with Canada’s single payer system. The exchange of stories is probably somewhat effective, especially because people here really don’t trust the sources of the anti-Canadian health care anecdotes. Wouldn’t it be a big improvement, however, if we could cut through all the static and win the health care anecdote war? Guess What? I think we can.
I think the way to do it is for the President to take a couple of quick trips: one to Canada, and one to France, to carry on Town Halls to get the personal experience of Canadian and French citizens who use their single payer systems everyday. Of course, those town halls must not stack the deck. There can be no hint of staging to ensure positive testimony, or the value of the Town Halls would be destroyed. But think of it. These appearances would be big events. The MSM couldn’t avoid covering them and featuring them. It would be hard for the Press to spin them. The President would be seeking experiences from people of other countries, and would be demonstrating American humility and willingness to learn from our friends and Allies.
In Canada, a Town Hall to get the Canadian experience would be a very high impact event, because Obama is very popular there, and people would be both glad to help him out and happy to be asked to do so. In France, we can just imagine the reaction of the Sarkozys to the favorable publicity, their excitement over promoting and arranging for the event, and the feelings of pride among the French people asked to give their experience to a popular American President striving to bring universal health care to his country, and seeking French wisdom on the subject to help him do it.
Both the Canadian and French events would produce powerful messaging that would be hard for counter-anecdotes to overcome. But just to make sure of the outcome of all this, I’d also send Hillary Clinton to Australia and New Zealand to get their experiences as well. Both countries would be honored to be asked for their experience and would be glad to help their American ally. They’d be tickled, of course, if the President could go to their countries too. But given the calendar on health care and the need to keep the pressure on Congress here, It’s probably not feasible for him to visit more than Canada and France, and it’s also true that Hillary Clinton is both the Secretary of State, and probably the next most popular American down under save the President himself, and perhaps her husband. Also, we know that Hillary Clinton will do a pair of great Town Halls, and that her doing them will make the kind of great story whose drama the MSM will find irresistible. They’ll follow her there, and the messages from the Town Halls about health care in the Australian and New Zealand systems will come through loud and clear, and, coupled with the Canadian and French Town Halls will overcome the counter-anecdotes and flat-out lies being spread by the opposition.
Finally, I think the President needs to let the single payer health care bills in both houses of Congress off the floor. The John Conyers and Bernie Sanders bills should at least be scored by CBO along with the other alternatives being considered. After all, the nations that the President and the Secretary will visit, will all be telling us how their single payer systems are working. So, people are bound to wonder what single payer would cost us, and why Congress has not proposed such a plan. In addition, the Kucinich Amendment, opening the way to State-level single payer plans has now made it out of committee, and this too suggests that the Public would benefit from being able to compare relative costs of a single payer plan with other options being considered. Who knows? If, after CBO scoring, single payer turns out to be the least costly option, and everyone knows it, then perhaps the opposition will stop delaying and agree quickly on a public option, rather than take the chance that single payer might gather momentum and put an end to the dominance of private health insurance immediately and for good.